The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved over 300 products for use against bed bugs. The majority of these can be utilized by ordinary people, but a handful are only available to properly trained specialists. Before approving a product, the EPA reviews data on its safety and effectiveness.
These 300 products are divided into seven pesticide chemical classes that are currently registered and commonly used for bed bug control:
- Neonicotinoids, and
- Insect growth regulators.
There is also a chemical class that has been registered for a particularly specific application pattern. Dichlorvos (an organophosphate commonly known as DDVP) is a pest strip approved for use in small enclosures. Each chemical class works in a distinct way to destroy bed bugs. It’s beneficial to use insecticides with several modes of action since it reduces the chances of bugs developing resistance. Each of the more often used chemical classes for bed bugs is discussed in greater depth in the following paragraphs.
- Pyrethrins and pyrethroids: The most popular substances used to control bed bugs and other indoor pests are pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Pyrethrins are natural insecticides generated from the blooms of chrysanthemums. Pyrethroids are synthetic insecticides that mimic the action of pyrethrins. Both compounds are harmful to bed bugs and can kill them by flushing them out of their hiding places. Where resistant bed bug strains exist, however, these treatments may cause them to relocate or temporarily flush them out of existing hiding places.
Some populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Bed bug control can sometimes be improved by employing a combination product (either several pyrethrin or pyrethroid active ingredients, or one that mixes different chemical classes into the same product). Switching to a different chemical class to reduce resistant bed bug populations can also be beneficial. A complete release fogger is available for some pyrethroid insecticides.
- Desiccants operate by removing the waxy, protective outer covering from bed bugs. The bed bugs will slowly dehydrate and die if this coating is damaged. Bed bug desiccants are a useful weapon in the fight against bed bugs. Bed bugs cannot develop resistance to desiccants as they may to pesticides with other modes of action because desiccants work through a physical mode of action. They also have a long-lasting effect and don’t interfere with typical bed bug activities.
Examples of Desiccants include:
- Diatomaceous earth.
- Boric acid
- It’s vital to utilize desiccants that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are labeled for bed bug treatment. Desiccants used for other purposes, such as food-grade or swimming pool use, represent a greater danger of inhalation to people. Desiccants are only used in cracks and crevices to reduce the risk of inhalation.
- Biochemicals: The only biochemical insecticide approved for use against bed bugs is cold pressed neem oil. The seeds of the Neem tree, a tropical evergreen species native to Southeast Asia and Africa, are used to make cold pressed neem oil. Various components in the oil have insecticidal and therapeutic effects. Shampoos, toothpaste, soaps, and cosmetics are among the goods that contain it. Both solutions control bed bug adults, nymphs, and eggs in performance testing conducted at the approved label rates.
- Pyrroles: The only pyrrole insecticide currently approved for use against bed bugs is chlorfenapyr. The compound is a pro-insecticide, which means that its biological activity is contingent on it being activated to generate another molecule. The new chemical causes the bed insect to die by disrupting certain mechanisms in its cells.
- Neonicotinoids: These are synthetic versions of nicotine that operate on the nervous system’s nicotinic receptors, forcing nerves to fire incessantly until they collapse. Because neonicotinoids have a distinct mode of action than other pesticides, bed bugs that are resistant to other pesticides will still be sensitive to them.
- Insect growth regulators: They are compounds that mimic the juvenile development hormones found in insects. They work by affecting the formation of chitin (the substance insects utilize to make their hard external “shell” or exoskeleton) or the growth of an insect into adulthood. Some growth regulators cause the insect to develop too quickly, while others prevent the bug from developing at all.