Readers often ask whether it’s possible to repel bed bugs or kill bed bugs using “natural remedies” like lavender oil, Eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, or thyme. Let’s just say we’re skeptical.
Natural methods that don’t work:
A new article in the UK’s FirstPost online magazine Thursday offers the usual warnings about travel and bed bugs, some data on the spread in the UK and the US, and the caveat that five-star hotels, too, can be infested.
Don’t think that booking into a five-star hotel will offer you protection. Earlier this year, a US lawyer sued a luxury hotel in London after he and his wife had been badly bitten.
And then this bit of misinformation:
A better – and cheaper – alternative is never to go anywhere without a lavender oil spray: apparently, it’s the one thing the little bastards can’t stand.
I can vouch for the fact that lavender oil sprayed on people and bedding will not keep bed bugs away. They may not like it (that’s possible), but hungry bed bugs will persist.
Better advice for travelers: watch the CBC video about bed bugs, which includes a demonstration of how to inspect a hotel room for bed bugs. It is about 10-15 minutes long and you will be glad you watched it. Read our FAQ on travel. Inspect your bed, keep your clothing sealed in XL ziplocs inside your suitcase, and inspect it after you come home too. While there may be bed bugs in the room that you miss on inspection, it’s unlikely to be one of those nightmare stories with 50 bites in a night. That kind of infestation, I have a hunch you’d see signs of, if you look.
And if you do have bed bugs at home, already, don’t waste your time spraying lavender, thyme, tea tree, or eucalyptus in the sheets, or sprinkling sweet rice or boric acid around your bedroom.
I always send people to find a good PCO who knows bed bugs.
Believe me, if there was evidence supporting a quick, easy, natural cure, we’d be all about it here. Bed bugs are so resilient, they can withstand 100 degree temperatures (for a while), survive a stint in your freezer, and even live through multiple pest control treatments, before finally succumbing. They can live, apparently, for a year without eating. They want to live, breed, and suck your blood. A little essential oil is not going to ward them off.
There is one thing lavender is good for, when you have bed bugs: it’s known to make you a bit sleepy. Dab some on your pillow, ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to pop a melatonin (natural sleep enhancer found where you buy vitamins), and it just might help with the bed bug-related insomnia.
Natural Methods that do kill bed bugs:
Non-chemical methods of treating bed bugs that can work (if done properly) are steam, thermal, and freezing. There is a FAQ on how to use steam to kill bed bugs here, and information on killing bed bugs with heat here
Another home remedy we’re told can work food grade diatomaceous earth, which is a mechanical killer, not a repellent. But that is unlikely to quickly clear up the entire problem. And it is not wise to start self-treating, since some PCOs won’t even treat you if there’s evidence you have.
Keep in mind it is probably not possible for you to kill your own bed bugs by freezing or heating your home. You may live in an area where professionals know how to and can employ this technology. The temperatures must be changed quickly, and this is why, for example, setting up space heaters in your home is not going to cut it (though you may spread bed bugs around the building, and you may start a fire!)