A bed bug fogger (bug bomb) seems like a quick-fix for those nasty little suckers, right?
Here are 3 reasons they don't work and 5 ways they make things worse and prolong your agony. Even worse, there are two ways they can be dangerous.
When most people think of foggers or “bug bombs”, they think they are something akin to gas fumigation which penetrates all of the voids in the treatment area.
But, that's not really how foggers work.
They use an aerosol propellant to disperse the contents through the air in a very fine mist, which settles onto all of the surfaces in the area. It's true that they do get the pesticide all over everything that is out in the open. But it doesn't get inside, underneath or behind anything.
Even so-called "Bed Bug Foggers" have been proven to have low residual effectiveness. That means they lose much of their power to kill once they dry. They contain pesticides that need to make contact with bed bugs to be most effective.
Since we already know they can't reach the majority of bed bugs in their hiding places, that's more bad news.
So what about the few they do reach? The pesticides in foggers have been shown to kill bed bugs under certain conditions. But there's not a high concentration of those chemicals in foggers.
A controlled study by the Entomology Department at the University of Ohio demonstrated that the ingredients in foggers were ineffective at killing even some of the bed bugs they did reach.
Still don't believe that foggers don't work on bedbugs? You don't have to take my word for it...
Are you convinced they're a bad idea yet? If not, you should know that using foggers to treat a bed bug infestation, will make the situation worse.
Typically, bed bugs remain fairly close to (albeit hidden in) the places where they most frequently feed. So in the beginning at least, bed bug infestations are usually concentrated in and around where people sleep or sit for long periods of time.
But, releasing a fogger can change all that.
Foggers cause bed bugs to scatter (to avoid contact). As a result, the infestation is spread wider as they try to get away from source of the offending chemicals.
But it doesn't stop there. They also go deeper into the nooks and crannies of your home, trying to find safer shelter.
This is bad for two reasons.
First, it means that rooms (or units in a multifamily dwelling) that were previously unaffected are now more likely to be infested.
Second, it means that because they've gone deeper into hiding in cracks and crevices, they are harder to find.
More bad news. The chemicals in foggers have been shown to create or increase pesticide resistance in bed bugs.
Through the low level exposure, they develop a degree of immunity to the pesticide. It's kind of like how we get flu shots to prevent the flu.
And to make matters worse, it's a progressive process. The bed bugs keep getting stronger each time they are exposed in that way.
If you have already used a fogger/bug bomb, please stop now. Each time you do it you are making them harder and harder to kill!
The ingredients in foggers act as a repellent, causing bed bugs to stay hidden more than normal. That could sound like a good thing, right? Well it's not.
Repelling bed bugs is a BAD IDEA.
Sure, you might not be getting bitten as much. You might even think they're gone altogether. But adult bed bugs can live up to 18 months without a blood meal under the right circumstances.
The unfortunate side effect is that many of the other options for killing them require that bed bugs to come into contact with them to work. So if they are hiding deeper and longer, it will delay the effectiveness of those treatments.
For all the reasons above, using a fogger to try to kill bugs just prolongs the problem. That's very bad news, and not just for the obvious reason that is sucks to have bed bugs (bad pun intended, sorry!)
Here's the real kicker:
As all this time is passing...your infestation may be getting worse. The longer you have an active bed bug population, the bigger it gets.
If you've used a fogger to try to take care of the problem yourself, now you really need professional help. Here comes the worst part...
Professionals know that if a fogger has been used, the situation will be much harder to handle because of all of the factors above. At the very least, it's probably going to require more treatments - and therefore more money out of your pocket.
If you've already used a fogger or “ bed bug bomb” to try to get rid of bed bugs, STOP. And don't do anything else yourself.
Your best bet is to try to find an experienced exterminator that really knows about bed bugs and is willing to treat environments where total release foggers have been released. You can find more help on how to find a good one in the section on working with bed bug exterminators.
By the way, if you think it might be a good idea to just not tell them...think again.
You'll be wasting their time and your money by keeping it a secret.
It's extremely important that you let any exterminator you work with know exactly what you've already done. That way they can take the after-effects into account when they design a pest control strategy for your particular situation.
If all that you've read so far isn't enough to make you stay far, far away from that spray can....or you don't have bed bugs, but you're thinking of using a fogger/bug bomb to try to get rid of some other pest...then please consider the health risks and dangers associated with them.
When the fogger is released, it spreads the pesticide to everything in your home – or the outside surfaces of it anyway. While the bedbugs can hide inside, underneath, and behind things to avoid the pesticide - you will be exposed to it by everything you touch.
A detailed article about frequency and range of illnesses and injuries related to total release foggers was published by the Centers for Disease Control. You can read it here.
For more information about foggers in general and the risk of explosions and house fires, check out the Can Bug Bombs Really Explode? podcast or read the transcript on the National Pesticide Information Center website.
Note: On this particular podcast, they don't speak to why you shouldn't use foggers for bed bugs. Instead, they focus on the dangers of using them at all.
Bed Bug foggers (also called “total release foggers” or “bug bombs”) are a BAD IDEA if you truly want to get rid of bed bugs.
Unfortunately, there just is no magic trick or cure-all that gets rid of bed bugs. It's simply not a one-shot deal. Sorry folks, that's just a fact.
The good news is that you can get rid of bed bugs, even if you can't afford an exterminator.
But to do it effectively, you have to get educated about what does and does not work and learn how to take an integrated pest management (or IPM) approach.
Don't worry! You can learn all about that in the Bed Bug Pest Control section of this site.
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