Self-Treating for Bedbugs

If you have Bedbugs you have probably done what many people do today which is search the internet for information. There are many sites on the web but what information is accurate? Well that I cannot say because not every site is run by an experienced professional and let’s face it, not every “professional” knows what they are doing. However one of the trends I see is that people are treating themselves (self-treating). Bedbug sufferers are buying organic products as well as professional grade products online and applying them on their own. As a professional I say “Don’t try to eliminate Bedbug infestations on your own and call a professional”. Now with that being said, I also understand that sometimes you feel like you have to take matters into your own hands.

There are many do-it-yourself (DIY) products currently on the market and new ones appear what seems like every day for the control of Bedbugs. Many of these products contain natural oils such as cedar oil, neem oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, etc. or any combination thereof. These products claim to be safe and effective. Also there is a lot of talk about Diatomaceous Earth (DE) which includes the crushed remains of a single-celled organism called a diatom.

First let us start with the natural oils. Natural oils have been used for thousands of years and for a variety of reasons including religious ceremonies, beauty aids and pest control. Specifically speaking for the control of Bedbugs, it is widely known that these products must make direct contact with the insects to be effective and if they do not, they typically scatter the Bedbugs as these oils have a repellency factor (how many people have cedar lined closets and/or drawers to repel clothing moths?). This could certainly cause the issue to be more widespread than it originally was. Also, these products can cause skin and respiratory irritation. I have searched many websites in hopes of finding some official research results done by a university and had no luck. Do they work? Well I can tell you that I have sprayed cedar oil products on live Bedbugs and it killed them, so I guess it does. Does it provide long-term control? I am not sure.

Diatomaceous Earth is commonly used in some pool filters and has been in the professional pest control market for years. It works because on a microscopic level it is very sharp. The tiny particles act as razor blades to the exoskeleton (outer shell) of insects causing numerous cuts. These cuts cause the insects to lose valuable body moisture causing them to eventually die. Because of this mode of action, this product and many other dust formulations are known as desiccants (causing the loss of moisture). If you rub the product in your hands it feels like a fine pumice powder. Think about what would happen to the soft tissue in your nose or lungs. Do you think DE could cause damage? The answer is YES! I have seen comments online and seen with my own eyes, people applying DE directly to their mattress and/or bed sheets. This is ridiculous. DE is a good product and when properly applied, is considered one of the “safer” products. When it is thrown around and applied everywhere, it can cause a serious health issue. I was recently told by another professional that desiccants do not work well on female Bedbugs because they heal too quickly thus not allowing enough body moisture to escape to be lethal. I have not been able to find any proof of this statement so I welcome anyone to pass on anything that would verify or discount this information. If you read “Bedbugs Procreate Through Traumatic Insemination”, you know that female Bedbugs can withstand serious injury.

Keep in mind that since these products are not registered pesticides therefore have not had to meet the criteria of the EPA.  Can you be sure that if a cedar oil product’s label states it is 5% cedar oil that it really is 5%? Do you know what grade cedar oil is being used? I am confident that many people feel that it is a naturally derived product so what does it matter? Well nicotine is a plant derivative and is highly toxic and cocaine is derived from plants as well. Now you might say that the process of extracting these derivatives is the issue; so I ask you this: Do you know how these products are being extracted?  Is there any government agency looming over them asking them to produce documentation of their manufacturing process amongst other things? I am not bashing the “Green” or “Natural” approach to pest management and as a matter of fact, on a professional level I do employ many of these approaches. However the government does regulate the approval and use of pesticides and each state has the choice to accept these products for use within their state. Do not assume there is not a health risk just because the product claims to be “Natural” or “Green”.

Always wear the proper personal protective equipment

Professional pest control products are also being sold online to the consumers without state held Pesticide Operators Licenses or equivalent. This isn’t against the law as long as the product isn’t considered a “Restricted Use” pesticide by the EPA. Many manufacturers incorporate statements on the product labels stating that the products are “Only for the use of professionals” or “Not intended for sale to the general public” as a deterrent for home use. The product label is the law. This is a saying widely used in the pest control industry because it is fact. Once the EPA approves a pesticide product label it becomes law and deviating from the instructions is a punishable crime. The label gives the professional the following information:

  • Percentage of active ingredient
  • Signal word (Caution, Warning, Danger)
  • What the product can use used to treat (ants, spiders, bedbugs, etc) and it may get species specific
  • How the product is to be mixed (if a concentrate)
  • How the product is to be applied and with what type of equipment
  • The rate of application (ex. 1 gallon per 1000ft₂)
  • Protective equipment requirements for mixing and handling
  • Precautionary statements

You can find a list of commonly used professional products and links to the manufacturers sites if you read “How to Get Rid of Bedbugs”

Keep these facts in mind before you think about treating Bedbugs on your own:

  • Just because it says “Natural” doesn’t mean it is not harmful
  • Many of these products and their uses are not approved by the EPA
  • If it can kill another living creature it has some type of toxic property

Remember to be safe, use common sense and only apply enough to control the infestation.