Since this website was started in 2006, we’ve been told countless times that bug bombs (total release aerosol foggers) are not effective for dealing with bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) because they don’t penetrate into harborage areas.
We are also told foggers and bombs may spread bed bugs, making problems worse. It is well known to researchers also that the pyrethroid insecticides commonly used in these products are also ones to which populations of bed bugs are increasingly resistant.
Expert opinions have for many years been fairly clear on the fact that foggers/bombs are not a good method to treat bed bugs. (Based on this input, we even have a FAQ about foggers and bug bombs, originally dating from 2007.)
Here are some sources (bold type = emphasis added):
- On page 25 of the July 2006 Bed Bug Code of Practice (PDF), Dr. Stephen Doggett 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.”
- The New York City Health guide “Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely” (PDF) from 2009 warns consumers, “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” (back page).
- Dr. Michael Potter’s article Limitations of Home Insect Foggers (“Bug Bombs”) from 2010 warns of the dangers of repellency, the limited effectiveness of pyrethrins, and potential fire hazards for consumers. Note that Dr. Potter’s comments are not solely relevant to the use of such a product against bed bugs, but more generally.
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Safety Precautions for Total Release Foggers,” warned consumers as of November 2011 that, “Foggers and bug bombs do not control bed bugs.” Interestingly, as of May 2012, this language has been changed to “Foggers and bug bombs should not be used as the only method to attempt to control bed bugs.” (The EPA page’s main focus is not on bed bugs, but on foggers/bombs more generally, and on safety — because these products are potentially dangerous.)
- University extension services and entomology department fact sheets recommend against the use of foggers for bed bugs. For example, North Carolina State University notes that “Foggers will not eradicate a bed bug infestation.”
- Similarly, Dr. Stephen A. Kells and Jeff Hahn of the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology note in “Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs in Residences,”
“…bug bombs, also known as total release foggers, are popular but are not effective when treating bed bugs. These products throw insecticide into air of which very little, if any, comes in contact with bed bugs which are hiding in cracks and behind and under objects. Its use will not have any impact on a bed bug infestation. Unfortunately, it is too easy for people to misuse or over use bug bombs which can result in unnecessary pesticide exposure. Bug bombs are also potentially flammable if used incorrectly.”
Many, many more examples abound.
While the information above was freely available for the public if they went looking for it, there hadn’t until now been any formal research studies documenting the ineffectiveness of aerosol foggers against bed bugs.
Now, research from Dr. Susan Jones at Ohio State University entitled “Ineffectiveness of Over-the-Counter Total-Release Foggers Against the Bed Bug (Heteroptera: Cimicidae),” has demonstrated that total release aerosols are not very effective in killing bed bugs.
Here’s a reference for the upcoming article:
SUSAN C. JONES AND JOSHUA L. BRYANT. Ineffectiveness of Over-the-Counter Total-Release Foggers Against theBed Bug (Heteroptera: Cimicidae). J. Econ. Entomol. 105(3): 957-963 (2012); DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC12037
According to a press release,
Jones and research associate Joshua Bryant evaluated three different fogger brands obtained from a nationwide retailer, and experiments were conducted on five different bedbug populations. Following application of the three foggers, Jones and Bryant found little, if any, adverse effects on the bed bugs.
According to CNN, the products tested were
… three commercially available foggers – sold under the Hot Shot, Spectracide, and Eliminator brands, respectively…
CNN also notes that only Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Fogger specifically lists bed bugs on the label, while the others mention “crawling” and “biting” pests.
Jones and Bryant tested five different field strains of bed bugs plus the protected “Harlan” strain, which exhibits no pesticide resistance.
The press release explains,
Because a majority of bed bugs spend most of the time hiding in protected sites (under sheets and mattresses, in cracks and crevices, deep inside carpets, etc.), Jones said it is very unlikely that they will be exposed to the insecticide mist from foggers. And even if they do come into contact with the mist, she added, many bed bug populations have varying degrees of resistance to the insecticides, so they will most likely survive the application.
“These foggers don’t penetrate in cracks and crevices where most bed bugs are hiding, so most of them will survive,” Jones said. “If you use these products, you will not get the infestation under control, you will waste your money, and you will delay effective treatment of your infestation. Bed bugs are among the most difficult and expensive urban pests to control. It typically takes a professional to do it right. Also, the ineffective use of these products can lead to further resistance in insects.”
United Industries Corporation, which makes all three of the products tested in the study, emphasized in a statement that only the Hot Shot brand fogger is designed to be used on bedbugs. The company stood by its line of Hot Shot products, saying they are “proven to be effective against bed bugs.”
The Hot Shot fogger “is particularly effective when used in in conjunction with our bedbug-killing direct sprays,” said John Pailthorp, the company’s division vice president of marketing.
One has to wonder if harborages were provided in United’s testing process, as they were in the current study, since these seem to have been crucial in protecting all of the populations from the insecticide. And harborages are almost always easily available in the real world setting.
Most consumers do not do extensive research. They go to a retail store, look in the insecticides department, and see foggers being marketed to treat bed bugs. They assume these will be an effective option.
Unfortunately, we too often hear from them after they have used such products.
Consumers are often perplexed that, given the fact that total release foggers and bug bombs are frowned upon by experts, they are still being marketed as over-the-counter bed bug remedies.
So are we.
Right now, you can download a free PDF of this article, from this page on the Entomology Society of America website. It is also available as of 11/2012 from the Armed Forces Pest Management Board Literature Retrieval System.)