Bug Bombs Ineffective Against Bedbugs, But Booze May Help

Commonly used bug bomb foggers used to rid homes of bedbugs have proven ineffective against the tiny blood-sucking insects, according to researchers of a new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

The products, known as “bug bombs” or “foggers,” have been sold and used for decades to control common household insects. And they have been even more popular in homes, hotels, and dorm rooms since a resurgence in bedbug infestations within the past decade.

However, Ohio State University (OSU) urban entomologist Susan Jones said in a recent statement: “These foggers don´t penetrate in cracks and crevices, where most bedbugs are hiding, so most of them will survive. If you use these products, you will not get the infestation under control, you will waste your money, and you will delay effective treatment of your infestation.”

In the new study, Jones, and coauthor Joshua L. Bryant, provide scientific evidence that these foggers should not be used for control of this growing problem.

“There has always been this perception and feedback from the pest-management industry that over-the-counter foggers are not effective against bedbugs and might make matters worse,” said Jones, a household and structural pest specialist with OSU Extension. “But up until now there has been no published data regarding the efficacy of foggers against bedbugs.”

For the study, Jones and Bryant evaluated three different fogger brands and conducted experiments on five different bedbug populations. Following the application of the three foggers, the team found little-to-no adverse effects on the creatures.

There was an exception, however — one group of bedbugs died in significant numbers five to seven days after being directly exposed to one of the foggers. But Jones and Bryant note that it is unlikely that bedbugs would be directly exposed to the mist for any length of time due to their innate ability to find cracks, crevices, and other small places to hide.

Jones also noted that a majority of bedbug populations have varying degrees of resistance to the insecticides used against them, and it is likely they would survive almost any application.

Bedbugs feed exclusively on blood from humans and other warm-blooded animals, but they can live for months without a meal. Infestations typically occur in places where people spend large amounts of time, like hotels, nursing homes and hospitals. They usually hide during the day and come out at night to feed. While bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, some people may have mild to severe allergic reactions when bitten, with reactions ranging from a small bite mark to anaphylactic shock.

The researchers say the best way to control bedbugs is to call a certified pest control specialist.

The CDC also warns that excessive use of foggers and bug bombs can lead to human illness and possibly death.

While bug bombs and foggers are seen as ineffective and a potentially dangerous method to control bedbug infestations, another study, from researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found that booze can be used to keep bedbugs from feasting on your flesh.

Ralph Narain, a New York entomologist now studying at UNL, found that bedbugs don´t have much of a taste for boozed-up blood and lay fewer eggs when their diet is rich is alcohol.

“(Bed bugs) need a blood meal to grow and to molt and to reproduce,” Narain told LifesLittleMysteries.com. “And one of their main hosts are humans, and we consume a lot of (alcohol).”

In his study, Narain fed blood mixed with different levels of alcohol to groups of bedbugs. Bedbugs that fed on clean blood doubled their body mass and laid an average of 44 eggs each. The more alcohol the bugs received, the less they grew. And those that drank the most alcohol-rich blood grew only 12.5 percent and laid a dozen eggs.

It remains unclear, however, if the alcohol affected the adult bugs´ behavior or their offspring´s development. Future tests may be able to measure both. Narain said he plans to do more testing with other drugs, but didn´t disclose which ones.

Narain, who presented his findings to the National Conference on Urban Entomology in Atlanta last week, said he isn´t going to suggest that people start getting plastered just to control bedbugs. He said it likely wouldn´t curb an infestation. While the bed bugs do feed less on alcohol-laced blood, they still feed, and while they lay fewer eggs, most of those eggs still hatch, and it only takes a few to create a problem.

“If the bed bugs are still producing, they can cause an infestation. Twelve hatchlings are an infestation right there, and they could increase to a major infestation in about two or four weeks time,” exterminator Barry Pollack with Metro Bed Bug Dogs in New York told the Daily News.

And in the warmer months, they reproduce more rapidly. “My business increases by 30 percent when the thermometer hits 80 degrees,” he said.

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