This is a very common question. Often specific products are mentioned in a news article or on the Internet. The fact is that there are many different products available and it is virtually impossible to have information on all of the products that are currently available. One thing that we do know is that many of the pesticides that we have available to us are largely effective as a contact spray and have little to no residual effect on bed bugs. Therefore, regardless of what pesticide you are using, when treating for bed bugs you should view that pesticide as a contact spray and expect it to not have much of a residual effect.
Another area that is hotly debated is whether or not fogging applications are advisable. Many companies fog structures as part of their management effort. Other companies argue that fogging is not advisable, as it will cause the bed bugs to disperse throughout the structure and drive them deeper into their harborages. Again, comments one way or the other are purely speculation as no scientific data exist to demonstrate exactly what the effect of a fogging application is on a population of bed bugs. Despite the fact that no data exist on this subject, the position that is most likely to be correct is the one that argues against fogging for bed bugs. The reason that this is the case is that Pyrethrum (the chemical that is typically used to fog) is known for its ability to flush or displace insects from their harborages. For this reason it seems likely that the same may be true for bed bugs as well. In addition, the pesticide fog will not effectively penetrate into the tiny cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide.
Rather than debating which product is most effective, greater attention should be placed on the ability of the pest management professional that is implementing the control program. The quality of the bed bug management effort and the level of consumer cooperation will ultimately determine the level of control that will be achieved.
Another concern that arises in association with the use of chemical application is the potential for resistance to the insecticides being applied. In recent years several different researchers have found high levels of resistance in bed bugs to synthetic pyrethroids (a class of pesticides that makes up a large portion of the pesticides we have available to us today). These findings suggest that the best bed bug control plan may be to not rely on pesticides alone and always incorporate non-chemical control measures into your efforts.
Chemical methods are not the only way to control bed bug infestations. In fact some non-chemical measures are among the most effective in reducing bed bug populations. Vacuums play a major role in bed bug management efforts. Vacuums are used to physically remove as many bed bugs from the mattress, box spring, bed frame, head board, furniture etc. While vacuums are extremely effective, care must be taken to dispose of the contents of the vacuum immediately after use. Bed bugs can live quite happily inside even the dirtiest of vacuums. Vacuum bags should be placed into trash bags, tied shut, and disposed of outside of the home. Bagless vacuums should have the contents of the canister disposed of and the canister washed. Steam is another very effective tool in bed bug management and can be implemented very effectively in a variety of situations to include mattresses and box springs.
High quality mattress and box spring encasements are also very effective and serve two purposes: a properly fitting encasement can be very effective at sealing in any bugs that may have escaped all of the other management efforts as well as protecting the mattress and box spring from becoming re-infested. Bugs trapped inside the encasement will eventually die from starvation and bugs on the outside of the encasement can easily be removed with mechanical methods such as vacuums. It is critical to use high quality encasements that have been specifically designed and tested for use against bed bugs. When purchasing mattress encasements, it is important that the encasements are both bed bug “bite proof” and “escape proof”. It is important that encasements are installed correctly so that they are sealed completely, preventing the escape or entry of bugs. If the encasements become ripped or torn they must be replaced. Once installed, the encasements should not be opened or removed in order to insure that any bugs inside do not escape and are eventually starved. Remember, bed bugs can easily survive several months or more without food and in some cases have been observed surviving over a year without a blood meal.