Bed bugs are one of the worst pests to find in your home. They’re universally reviled because they feed on human blood. That means these pests will bite you and your family any chance they get – usually at night, while you’re asleep in your bed.
Part of what makes bed bugs so feared is that they are very hard to get rid of. Usually only coming out at night, these insects are very good at staying hidden. Their extremely high reproductive rate means that a single female bedbug can restart an infestation all by herself.
The trick to getting rid of bedbugs is making sure you kill all of them. It’s no wonder why “bed bug bombs” sound like a such an appealing option! Certainly a “bomb” will wipe out an entire infestation, right?
Unfortunately, wiping out bed bugs isn’t so simple and bed bug bombs aren’t so effective. Let’s get more into the details.
What are Bed Bug Bombs?
The idea behind bedbug bombs isn’t complicated. Usually, these products are aerosol cans that contain a pesticide. Activating the can sprays the pesticide up into the air in a fine mist or fog.
Once the fog is released, it drifts on the air and slowly sinks to the floor. This means that a bedbug bomb can cover a wide area in pesticide with minimal effort. It’s important when using bedbug bombs to vacate the area immediately after activating the cans. Even if you have protective gear, you don’t want to be in an enclosed room when a cloud of pesticide is released. You will also need to stay out of the house for the period recommended by the manufacturer — often around six hours.
It’s important to remember that bedbug bombs are indiscriminate. When you activate one in a room, everything in that room is going to get covered in pesticide. That includes furniture, beds, kitchen surfaces, floors, and just about everything else.
It’s important to remember that you’ll need to prep properly when considering a fogger. All people and pets must be out of the house when the treatment is performed. You may also need to cover any electronics to make sure the mist doesn’t get inside and interfere with the circuitry. After the fog has cleared, it’s a good idea to wipe down kitchen surfaces carefully to make sure you remove any pesticide residue.
How are Bed Bug Bombs Used to Treat Bed Bugs?
Bed bug bombs can start treating an entire room in a matter of minutes. That’s part of what makes them so attractive to the average homeowner trying to clear their home of a bedbug infestation.
The idea is – you cover all surfaces in a room with pesticides, and that will kill all of the bed bugs and eventually you’ll be free of your infestation. However, because bedbugs often hide in hard-to-reach places, a bed bug fogger often isn’t ideal!
Reasons Why You Should NOT Use a Bed Bug Bomb
Filling your home with a cloud of pesticide might sound like a surefire way to kill any bugs living inside it, but the reality is bedbug foggers aren’t very effective. There are a couple of issues with bedbug bombs that keep them from being the best tool to use to clear a bedbug infestation.
1. The Pesticides Used are Weak + Pesticide Resistance
Bedbug bombs typically use synthetic pyrethroids such as permethrin. Permethrin has been widely used around the world to kill bedbugs and other insects for decades. As a result of this widespread use, many strains of bed bugs have developed an immunity to this pesticide.
This resistance is made even worse because foggers typically contain a fairly low concentration of pesticide. That’s because it’s not safe to release a cloud of very potent pesticide in your home. The result is a pest control product that may kill some insects, but not bed bugs.
In fact, in this study from 2012, bedbugs collected in the field showed almost no reaction to permethrin-based bedbug bombs. The only bugs that were killed were ones that were out in the open when the fog was activated. Even a thin layer of cloth was enough to protect the bedbugs.
2. Bed Bugs Spend Most their Time Hidden
This study also shows the other issue with bedbug bombs. If the bugs are hidden, the pesticide has a tough time reaching them. When not actively feeding, bedbugs tend to stay in what’s known as harborages. These are dark, out-of-the-way places where they can mate, lay their eggs, and shed their skins without fear of being killed. Typically seams of mattresses, under baseboards, in cracks of furniture, under carpet, behind outlet covers, etc.
Bedbug bombs can kill bedbugs that happen to be out in the open when the fog is released. This will always be a very small proportion of the bedbug population. Most of the bedbugs — and, crucially, the eggs — will be hidden where the pesticide is unlikely to reach them.
Remember that bedbug bombs release the pesticide into the air and it simply falls to whatever surface is beneath it. They can’t be aimed at specific areas such as baseboards or cracks in furniture.
3. Stronger Bed Bug Sprays are Actually Safer
It’s both more effective and safer to directly spray pesticide at the areas where bedbugs are hiding rather than apply it to places the bedbugs aren’t going to be, such as kitchen countertops or the middle of a tiled floor. When this is pointed out, it’s obvious why no one should use a bed bug bomb!
There are also some secondary safety issues with bedbug bombs that you should be aware of. Often, the chemicals inside the can are flammable. You may need to turn off pilot lights and any potential sources of ignition before spraying.
Also, bedbug bombs have a greater risk of accidental exposure than conventional sprays. Since they cover all surfaces in a fine invisible mist of pesticide, it’s easy to forget to clean an area after treatment and come into contact with the pesticide. Most cases of pesticide poisoning are a result of absorption through the skin. This is far more likely with a bedbug bomb than it is with a conventional spray.
Yet another problem with bedbug bombs is the risk of making the problem worse. Bedbugs aren’t exactly smart, but they do know to hide when a toxic pesticide starts to creep in. Bedbug bombs can cause bedbugs to hide more deeply in their harborages. This can make them even harder to find and eradicate.
If you live in an apartment, this is especially bad. Fogging your apartment can cause the bedbugs to scatter and find their way into your neighbor’s units. From there, they can easily recolonize your apartment when the fog wears off.
What are Bed Bug Bomb Alternatives?
Check out our list of the best bed bug sprays, which are very much preferable to a bedbug bomb. By targeting specific areas where bedbugs are hiding, you can reduce your pesticide usage while still performing a more effective treatment. Bedbug sprays use higher concentrations of chemicals to kill bedbugs so you’re not going to waste your time on something that can’t even take care of the problem.
As well as spraying for bedbugs, you can use good habits such as regularly washing your clothes and drying them on high heat. Bed bug steamers are also an effective way to kill bed bugs with heat.
When treating for bedbugs, the best option is to combine multiple methods of treatment to make sure you target these pests effectively. Unfortunately, bedbug bombs aren’t part of this strategy. This is one bug-killing technique that is better left on the shelf.