Bed bug infestations are a growing problem. The pests can hide in mattresses, bedding, headboards and other places in homes, hotels or college dormitories. Travelers sometimes inadvertently bring them home in luggage. Bed bugs feed by biting a sleeping victim and sucking blood. Although the pests do not spread disease, some bites itch and scratching them might cause a secondary infection, according to Cornell University. Experts say it is better to hire an exterminator if you use chemicals against bed bugs because pesticides have health risks.
Insecticidal dusts work by wearing away the waxy exterior of a bed bug, which causes it to dry out and die quickly. However, bed bug eggs take two weeks to hatch. Therefore, no pesticide will end an infestation overnight. In addition, it is safer not to use pesticides on bedding. Washing and drying sheets, blankets, bedspreads and pillows kills the bed bugs and eggs. Sealing mattresses and box springs inside bed bug proof encasements that zip closed prevents the pests from getting out and they eventually die.
Insecticidal dusts are placed in crevices or behind such things as walls, light switches and cover plates for electrical outlets. One of the most common insecticidal dusts is silica powder, which is sometimes used in combination with other dry insecticides, such as pyrethroid dusts, or diatomaceous earth, which is a fossilized type of algae. Make sure that the label of the product states it is for bed bugs. People sometimes mistakenly use boric acid. But boric acid is effective against cockroaches, not bed bugs, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing in a 2010 report funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pesticide Programs.
A contact insecticide is a neurotoxin that works by exciting and paralyzing an insect's nerves. This happens to the bed bugs after they come into direct contact with the product or residue from the product. Generally, this happens if the bed bug walks over the insecticide. Contact insecticides fall under the class of insecticides known as pyrethroids. Common pyrethroids used to kill bed bugs include deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, permethrin and pyrethrum. However, read the label and make sure the product is specifically for killing bed bugs and that it is for household use. Some insecticides repel bed bugs so instead of coming into contact with it and dying, the bed bugs head away from it. That means the pests would simply move to a different room or area.
Insect Growth Regulators
Insect growth regulators, or IGRs, can work, but they do not kill bed bugs quickly. IGRs, such as hydroprene or pyriproxifen, work by affecting insect development. An IGR prevents bed bugs from reaching maturity and reproducing. IGRs generally come in liquids, aerosols and solids. However, exterminators usually use IGRs in addition to other types of insecticides.
Officials say to check the label to make sure that the pesticide is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.