June 3, 2012 -- Bug bombs and other insect foggers may be no match for pesky bedbugs.
A new study confirms that these commonly used pesticides are ineffective against the current bedbug invasion.
"These foggers don't penetrate in cracks and crevices, where most bedbugs are hiding, so most of them will survive," researcher Susan Jones, an urban entomologist at Ohio State University, says in a news release. "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."
During the last decade, a growing number of bedbug infestations has been reported in hotel rooms, dormitories, and homes, prompting concern from public health officials.
Although the cause of this resurgence is unknown, experts suspect the tiny bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides.
In the study, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers evaluated the effects of three different over-the-counter insect foggers against bedbugs.
Researchers exposed five different groups of live bedbugs to the products for two hours, and found few adverse effects on the bugs. When the bugs had a place to hide, as in real-world conditions, few died as a result of exposure to the foggers.
The only exception was one group of bedbugs that died in significant numbers five to seven days after being directly exposed to one of the foggers.
But the researchers say it's very unlikely that bedbugs will be directly exposed to the mist from insect foggers because of their uncanny ability to hide in small spaces. In addition, many bedbug populations are resistant to at least some extent to the active ingredients in these products.
"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," says Jones. "But up until now there has been no published data regarding the efficacy of foggers against bedbugs."
Bedbugs feed exclusively on blood from humans and other warm-blooded animals, but the tiny reddish-brown bugs can live for months without a meal.
Infestations usually occur where people sleep or spend a significant amount of time, like hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, and cruise ships. They typically hide during the day in seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, or other cracks and crevices.
Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, but people may have mild to severe allergic reactions to bedbug bites. These reactions may range from a small bite mark to life-threatening anaphylaxis in rare cases.
Researchers say this study confirms that the best way to control bedbugs is to call a certified pest control professional.
"Bedbugs are among the most difficult and expensive urban pests to control. It typically takes a professional to do it right," says Jones. "Also, the ineffective use of these products can lead to further resistance in insects."
In addition, the CDC says excessive use of bug bombs, foggers, and other insecticides against bedbugs can lead to human illness and possibly death.