Bombs and foggers not a good DIY option

by nobugsonme on May 30, 2007 · 38 comments

in bed bugs, bedbugs, bombs, bug bombs, foggers, fumigation

Bug bombs ( and aerosol foggers) do not get rid of bed bugs.  They can make your bed bug problems worse, by spreading them deep into your walls or to your neighbors (not the intended effect in a multi-unit building). From various bed bug experts and trusted information sources, I have gathered the following suggestions:

  • Do not use OTC foggers or bug bombs to fight bed bugs.
  • Don’t let a landlord or professional set off a bomb or fogger in your home.

Please see this post describing 2012 research by Susan Jones and Joshua Bryant which shows three commercially available foggers were not effective against bed bugs.

When this FAQ was originally written in March 2007, many university fact sheets and similar materials did not warn consumers not to use foggers or bug bombs to fight bed bugs. Some did, though, and now, in 2010, this information is becoming much more widely disseminated.

The first edition of Stephen Doggett’s Australian Bed Bug Code of Practice (PDF) states,

Aerosols should never be used as space sprays for bed bug elimination; the fine droplets simply will not penetrate into the locations where the insects hide. As most contain pyrethroids, there is an associated excitatory flushing effect and by spraying into a space rather than harbourage areas, the bugs are likely to disperse and can spread an infestation. Like aerosols, the smoke generating insecticides (known as pyrotechnics) or total release insecticides (‘bombs’) are also unlikely to penetrate into harbourage areas.

Dr. Michael F. Potter of the University of Kentucky has an entire page on the “Limitations of Home Insect Foggers (‘Bug Bombs’).” It notes that they do not work well, can pose health risks due to how pesticide residues settle onto exposed surfaces and may be flammable.

couchbugs writes:

The official NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene pamphlet on bed bugs says (rather colorfully, I might add):

“Foggers and bug bombs are not effective against [bed bugs].”
(page 7)

and

“Do not use pesticide bombs or foggers to control pests. They can make conditions worse.”
(page 14/back cover)

 

The NYCDOH guide is available as a PDF you can hand to your relative or landlord, when they try to use bombs.

Finally, it’s important to note the following:

  • Some PCOs who do know bedbugs use aerosols as space sprays.  They may use CB-80 as a “flushing” component.
  • Full-structure sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) fumigation, which requires an evacuation of the entire building, and treatment of the entire building, is something entirely different, and does work well for bed bugs.

Thanks to coopbugged, couchbugs and Hopelessnomo for tips on items to be included above. Thanks to Winston, Lou Sorkin, and everyone else who have long warned us Bedbuggers about foggers and bug bombs.

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1 May 30, 2007 at 10:24 am

NYC recommends against foggers for bed bugs:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/vector-faq1-hotel.pdf

2 nobugsonme May 30, 2007 at 10:40 am

Quoting Hopelessnomo’s response in the forums:

“This is a link to a section on bedbug elimination from Cooper Pest, the well-known and highly regarded New Jersey PCO. (This is the kind of PCO who gives interviews and is quoted everywhere, in other words, an acknowledged authority.) He discusses the issue of fogging applications:

http://www.cooperpest.com/bedbugs.asp#Prod

Another source is the venerable Stephen Doggett in his Australian Code of Practice. This is not a US source but anyone who knows anything about bed bugs has to read it with interest and respect: (it’s a PDF, relevant info on page 25 beginning with “Aerosol insecticides…” — he says they should never be used as space sprays and says why) http://medent.usyd.edu.au/bedbug/bed_bug_cop_v1.pdf

Finally, it’s important to say that some PCOs who do know bedbugs use aerosols as space sprays.” They may CB-80 as a “flushing” component.

3 Winston O. Buggy May 30, 2007 at 12:20 pm

ULV, aerosols, and foggers. Insecticides currently labeled for ULV, aerosols and foggers have little or no residual effects on bed bugs. Most will seldom penetrate cryptic bed bug harborages. Harold Harlan
http://www.afpmb.org/pubs/tims/TG44/TG44.htm

4 Winston O. Buggy May 30, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Total release bombs are a no no as stated but there are times when the
application of a flushing material or crack and crevice contact material
is used but this is not a space spray, bomb, ULV etc.

5 hymenoptera May 30, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Check tjhe label of the product to be used. It lists controled pests on the label.
Very few Total release bombs list bed bugs as such.

6 nobugsonme May 30, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Thanks all!

Anonymous: oddly enough, the city tells us not to use bombs because they spread chemicals around the room, not because they don’t work or can make the bed bugs disperse.

7 Willow-the-wisp May 30, 2007 at 8:37 pm

that’s a lot of good info. I’ll make note of it because sometimes they bomb us here in SF too, and it is good info from good people.

8 Winston O. Buggy May 31, 2007 at 10:33 am

As the line from Dr. Strangelove goes ” bombs are not all bad”.
The issue with bombs is that they are used as a space spray in
other words they fill a space such as a room with a pesticide mist.
Amount is determined by cubic feet which is length x width x height,
THEY ARE OFTEN OVER USED – READ THE LABEL.
They are ideal for flying insects that fly around in the “space”but insects that are
shy nocturnal and hide in small cracks and crevices are not really effected which is why most are not labeled for bed bugs. Since it gets all over it is usually a non residual so it only kills the pests it contacts and then quickly breaks down. Now if
you have a bad bb problem it may kill those exposed ones on the drapes, edge of cracks etc. BUT as we learned from years of roach warfare it only kills 20 % and the rest go deeper or receive a sub lethal dose only to return at a later date. Getting back to bed bugs, if you keep repeating this method you can really send them deep and into other apartments as well. Unfortunately the tendency is to keep reusing hence the real problem of spreading them and not gaining control and driving them deeper into belongings which only exacerbates and prolongs the problem. Hence bombs are not recommended for bed bug control.

9 nobugsonme May 31, 2007 at 10:47 am

Very helpful, Winston!

10 James Buggles May 31, 2007 at 1:49 pm

What does “sending them deep” mean in terms of location?

11 Winston O. Buggy May 31, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Deep= to an area where the material is not bothering them, but after repeated
events they may continue to travel. There is no exact distance direction or equation
as it is not a controlled environment. As with many aspects of bed bugs and other critters good and bad much is not none.

12 lil_bit_obsessed December 16, 2007 at 12:41 am

are fogging and fumigating the same thing? also, in the australian code of practice, on page 25/26, it mentions that fumigants do not have residual properties. is this true? because my pco told me that the “fog” he used in my apartment was a residual… (dragnet – with permethrin)

13 nobugsonme December 16, 2007 at 1:44 am

No–

I am looking at page 33 of the second edition (see our links) and it says this:

“In the past, fumigants were widely used for bed bug control, however as other
effective methods exist that pose less operational risk to the Pest Manager and
client, fumigants are not recommended within this CoP. Currently, no fumigants
are specifically registered for the control of bed bugs. Fumigants also have the
disadvantage of not offering any residual protection. The use of ozone as a fumigant is also not recommended within this CoP due to the associated health
risks and the fact that the chemical is the main component of photochemical
smog.”

I believe that Doggett is talking about fumigants like Vikane gas. Vikane has no residual.

Note that one page 31 of the 2nd edition, he says,

“Like aerosols, the smoke generating
insecticides (known as pyrotechnics) or total release insecticides (‘bombs’) are
also unlikely to penetrate into harbourage areas.”

So there are references in the same document to aerosols and “bombs”.

14 hopelessnomo December 20, 2007 at 12:51 am

Here’s an older resource from Dr. Potter on this, found on David’s site actually.

It’s from 1999 and it’s not specific to bedbugs but it fairly describes the risk of scattering insects and sending them into wall voids.

Limitations of Home Insect Foggers (“Bug Bombs”)

15 Kevin M. Kirby June 19, 2008 at 6:08 pm

I found out that a fellow SRO hotel customer had his room put on the spraying regimen about five weeks ago–just about the time when my own room started getting filled up with bedbugs. It might be a coincidence, or, more likely, they’re simply driving these parasites from one unsuspecting roomer to the next.

And they still haven’t notified anybody else about the impending arrival of these close relatives of the Assassin Bugs!

I, personally, am in frequent contact with a lady whose next bee sting will be her last, due to allergies. What if the weird mind-controlling venom of bedbugs had the same deadly result? Does something like that even once occur to hotel owners?

And now they expect to dispose of all books and things that have taken up to 25% of my income for the last 8 years there, simply by donating them (nymphs and all) to a library or thrift store–so they can continue their futile, “musical chairs” spraying routine.

It’s no wonder the bedbugs have stayed in hiding for fifty years. This new generation is obviously ill-equipped to handle their spread. Indeed, it’s as if the cimex has found a new ally in callous, institutionalized ignorance.

16 DigitalMan November 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Ok, I understand how bug bombs can spread out the bed bug problem to other areas. But we bagged all of our belongings from the affected bedrooms before the pros came to treat. So they’ve been in plastic sealed garbage bags in our garage for over a month now. I’m wondering if there’s any kind of bug bomb sprayer we could use to spray into the bags and then re-seal. Most standard bombers I don’t think can be turned on and off. The exterminators offer fumigation for $500+ if we load a truck up and bring it to them. I’d rather not pay that if I can do it myself.

17 nobugsonme November 8, 2008 at 2:14 am

You might be interested in this idea, DigitalMan:
Jeff White talking about DDVP (Hot Shot No Pest Strips) being used in a sealed container with infested items. Make sure you watch both videos, and exercise caution. This is a controversial method. Jeff White would be the one to ask about it if you have questions.

Note that depending on the amount of stuff, this could mean a lot of DDVP strips and a lot of time for them to work. $500 may end up not being such a bad offer for doing it all in one shot and quickly, depending on your circumstances.

18 DigitalMan November 10, 2008 at 10:10 am

Thanks nobugsonme. I’m also trying out moth balls after the exterminator recommended them. So far it worked in less than a couple days in a small medicine bottle with 4 bed bugs. Hopefully a handful of moth balls in sealed garbage bags for a couple weeks will have the same effect.

19 nobugsonme November 10, 2008 at 2:11 pm

I can’t personally recommend such a mode of action. But you can read discussions of the moth ball idea here and here.

20 bugged off February 6, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Does anyone know if there are recent references about the hazards of using aerosols, ULVs, fogging? I need to find something recent (e.g. article, study, research) to prove to my neighbour’s pest control company that it’s bad and will reinfest our house!

21 bugphobic April 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

For a dorm-type home with seven beds, 2000 Sq ft,
PCO wants to fumigate 3 times over 4 days, and tent the house for $2,880. But your info. says this is not the correct method, right?

22 nobugsonme April 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm

bugphobic,

It’s impossible for me to know what your PCO plans to do.

People often have their homes tented and treated with Vikane Gas (sulfuryl fluoride) or other gasses. It is pricey and can be very effective. This is NOT what we are warning people against.

I have not heard of it taking 3 treatments, so perhaps your PCO is using another kind of gas. If you find out what it is, you could ask about it in our forums, where there are PCOs who may be able to comment: http://bedbugger.com/forum/

We have been told by many PCOs that traditional bug bombs, foggers, etc. are a bad idea for bed bugs. They don’t work and can spread them.

23 dicar July 7, 2009 at 12:29 am

I was at Home Depot yesterday and a worker there recommended a fogger-type product. He says the container does list bed bugs. The product was completely sold out. I can’t remember the brand name, but I think it was a mainstream pest control brand.

When I explained that I had NEVER seen (online) ANYONE recommend a fogger for bed bugs, the worker and my husband suggested that my info was outdated. Has anyone used these over-the-counter foggers?

24 nobugsonme July 7, 2009 at 12:34 am

I know of one product labeled in this way but I have heard advice that it is not recommended. I would not go this route. If you must self-treat, I would stay away from foggers.

25 Michael Deutsch M.S., BCE September 30, 2009 at 11:05 pm

AH…”A better life through chemistry” or “Why don’t you just spray something”? “Don’t you have anything stronger”? I have been in the structural pest management industry for almost 40 years. I am a board certified Entomologist and have a Master of Science degree in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety from CUNY at Hunter College in NYC. I used to treat tugboats in NY harbor for bed bugs 35 years ago. I used an organophosphate insecticide concentrate mixed with deodorized kerosene. We soaked everything until it was dripping wet and the bed bugs were eliminated 1,2,3! Needless to say it’s a new era. I’ve seen the pest management industry “come of age”. From “spray and pray” to evolving into an industry with very talented, well educated, environmentally sensitive professionals who use science, technology and hard work to protect the public health. From the “bug man” to the “baseboard jockey” from “exterminating” to “pest control” to “integrated pest management”, to being “state certified” and becomming a “Pest Management Professional” this industry, over the past 35 years, has, and will continue to evolve. The industry and it’s dedicated professionals will continue to embrace all challenges and opportunities that may arrise. Structural pest management professionals are urban environmentalists. They are specialists who work within the urban ecosystem. Their training is highly specialized. It is focused on protecting the health and well being of people and the environment. Humans are living longer and enjoying a better life through advances in modern medicine, sanitation and yes, pest management. The pest management professional (PMP) is called upon to address challenges to public health. West Nile, Lyme Disease and Hanta Virus are serious public health issues that the PMP is actively addressing 24/7. The bed bug, after a 60 year absence, has returned. It is causing the public great concern. Although not associated with transmission of any known human pathogen, its habit of feeding exclusively on blood has created an unacceptable situation for many individuals. The mere mention of bed bugs makes many people very uncomfortable. PMPs have been on the frontline of this problem since it was first reported about 7 years ago. Clearly, there was much mis-information about this pest. The public and many in the medical profession, were caught unprepared. However, the PMPs were the first to mobilize. They sought advice and training from leading industry researchers. It was soon discovered that bed bugs were resistant to commonly used chemical insecticides. When this happened, the industry turned to alternative approaches such as vacuuming, steaming and freezing. Why did they think that these tactics would work? Because as trained professionals they understood the biology, behavior and habits of bed bugs and used this knowledge to affect elimination. In closing, let me say again that the professional pest management industry is constantly evolving to meet new challenges. We have come a long way since the days of the “bugman” and the “thrill of the kill”. I would like to think the public feels the same way but I’m not sure they do, yet.

26 nobugsonme October 1, 2009 at 1:05 am

Hi Michael Deutsch,

I am not sure how your comment relates to the post above. If you’ve looked around the site at all, you will find we stress that bed bugs are best treated by a knowledgeable, experienced pest pro, one who knows bed bugs and how to kill them.

Sadly, we hear there are still many licensed and apparently experienced pest pros who do not do a diligent job with bed bugs.

27 couchbugs June 1, 2010 at 3:54 am

The official NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene pamphlet on bed bugs says (rather colorfully, I might add):
“Foggers and bug bombs are not effective against them.” (page 7) and
“Do not use pesticide bombs or foggers to control pests. They can make conditions worse.” (page 14/back cover)

It is available online at:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf

Hope this helps.

28 nobugsonme June 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Yes, we’re glad for the backup, couchbugs. I will add that to the post above. (It’s already in the resources page.)

29 nobugsonme June 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm

couchbugs, you were not the first person to find additional references, but you were the one who finally got me to make a change to this old FAQ, so thank you!

30 confused.... July 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Okay, I’ve been reading on your blog for several hours now and I’m thoroughly confused on the “bombing/fogging” aspect. The front office at my apartment complex gave us a “Bedbug and Flea fogger” to help treat our bedbug problem. The brand is HOT SHOT and it specifically says “Bedbug and Flea fogger”.

The active ingredients are pyrethrins, (S)-cyano(3-phenoxyphenyl)methyl-(S)-4-chloroalpha-(1-methylethyl)benzeneacetate, piperonly butoxide, N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide, 2-[1-methyl-2(4-phenoxyphenoxy) ethoxy] pyridine.

Is this product effective in bedbug treatment and removal?

31 nobugsonme July 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Hi confused,

I am not surprised this is confusing to you — it is to us too.

We have been told that bug bombs and foggers are not a good idea when it comes to bed bugs. The actual chemicals themselves may be just fine, but the method of application can disperse bed bugs around the home, making them harder to treat.

(Incidentally, if you live somewhere where the landlord has to treat for bed bugs, it may be illegal for them to self-treat or to ask you to do so. Where I live in NYC, for example, the landlord has to hire someone licensed to apply pesticides.)

32 nobugsonme July 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm

ps If you want to discuss this further, our Bedbugger Forums have a number of entomologists and bed bug specialists as well as laypeople like myself, and they may be able to further illuminate this question: http://bedbugger.com/forum/

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