Bed bugs – least toxic control

Bed bugs infesting a house give off a nasty smell from ‘stink glands’. In these conditions, writes David Allen, the only solution may be to throw out the old mattress and take practical steps which avoid toxic chemicals.

There are 74 bug species belonging to the Cimicidae family that are known to feed on humans – the most frequently found being Cimex lectularius the common bed bug. Although they are not such a common nuisance today, bed bugs can still affect any household and are generally associated with low levels of hygiene and overcrowding. Other species such as the pigeon bug (Cimex columbarius) and the martin bug (Oeciacus hirundinis) found in martins’ nests predominantly feed on birds but can also feed on human blood. 

Bed bugs are wingless insects and as such move around by crawling or riding from place to place in clothing, luggage or other such transport. Distribution can be further exacerbated in places such as theatres and public transport, with infestations frequently occurring in hotels and other buildings where there is a high density and turnover of individuals. 
    Bed bugs are mostly found in bedrooms as they generally feed at night when the host is asleep. When not feeding they live in the bed frame or cracks and crevices around the room. They do not harbour in the mattress or bedding material. They are reddish brown in colour turning blood red after feeding. The adult reaches approximately 5mm in length and passes through five nymph stages over a period of time to 128 days. The female lays her eggs in batches of 10 to 50, they are white in colour and deposited on various surfaces with a thin glue. They take on average 10 days to hatch and can mature into adults within one to two months given ample food. The female is then ready to start laying eggs. The speed of development depends on temperature and food availability. Surprisingly, bed bugs can live longer without food and can go without feeding for up to 140 days; the adult typically lives for about 10 months but can survive for a year or longer in cool buildings. This sensitivity to temperature means bed bugs will start to die if temperatures drop below 9ºC or rise above 36ºC. However, modern buildings have created ideal conditions for the bed bug with central heating and easy access to adjoining properties being commonplace.

Non-toxic control
Bed bug bites generally cause the victim irritation and can lead to sleepless nights, some pain and swelling, although some individuals experience next to no allergic reaction at all. Bed bugs do not transmit any known disease. The bites often leave a hard whitish swelling and evidence of a heavy infestation will be the unpleasant smell created by the bugs ‘stink glands’. Further evidence of infestation is finding eggs, blood and faecal material on sheets and pillows. Strategies for ridding a bed bug infestation depend on which species is present. If it is a bat, pigeon or swallow bug then the source of the infestation may be a nearby nest or bat roost in the roof or under eaves. Removal of this source and blocking ways back into the house will help to prevent future infestations. However, it must be remembered that all species of bats are protected and it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to remove or even block access to any bat roosting site. English Nature can give further advice on this issue.
    For the common bed bug it is wise to check possible harbourages in cracks in the bed frame, around door and window frames, behind pictures, fittings and loose wallpaper and in light fittings. Any holes, cracks or crevices must be washed to eliminate any eggs or waste that has accumulated and then caulked, painted or sealed. Bed bugs can easily climb surfaces like wood so to prevent them from gaining access to a sleeping host, barriers can be put in their way. Examples of this are the use of petroleum jelly on the legs of the bed, putting the legs inside smooth metal jars and moving the bed away from any surfaces such as walls. Mattresses should either be replaced or steam-cleaned and bedding washed at a high temperature, making sure to transport bedding in an enclosed plastic bag to stop contamination of other areas. Exposure to hot and cold temperatures is a useful part of an infestation reduction policy, and raising temperatures to between 36ºC and 37ºC for an hour or so will probably eliminate an infestation, and prolonged exposure to temperatures of 0ºC to 9ºC will also kill off adults in a matter of hours. 

Chemical control
Chemical control strategies often start by flushing bed bugs out from their hiding places by use of a natural or synthetic pyrethroid based aerosol spray. This is then followed by use of other insecticides inside the premises, including the treatment of beds and other furniture. Active ingredients approved for use against bed bugs in the UK under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 (COPR) are the following organophosphates: chlorpyrifos methyl, diazinon, fenitrothion, iodofenphos, pirimiphos-methyl and trichlorfon; and carbamates, bendiocarb and propoxur. These groups of chemicals act as nerve poisons which kill by inhibiting the nerve enzymne cholinesterase which disrupts the nervous system. More than half of these actives will have their licences revoked as part of the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) review of all anticholinesterase compounds. This process began in September 1998 when data call-in letters were sent to approval holders. Because of lack of support the following substances chlorpyrifos-methyl, diazinon (which shows evidence of mutagenicity and evidence of embryotoxicity), iodofenphos, trichlofon and propoxur (a suspected human carcinogen) have had their licences revoked(1,2).
    The synthetic pyrethroids alpha cypermethrin, bioallethrin, bioresmethrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, d-phenothrin, permethrin, resmethrin, s-bioallethrin, tetramethrin and the OPs trichlorphon and fenitrothion are suspected of being endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disrupting chemicals may affect the balance of normal hormonal function of animals and are suspected of contributing to the decrease in male fertility, female reproductive problems, increases in prostate and breast cancer, and behavioural and developmental problems in children(3). The German Federal Environment Agency suspects deltamethrin of affecting sperm and the placenta and dimethoate of affecting sperm and prolonging pregnancy(4).
    The botanicals registered for use in the UK (pyrethrins and pyrethrum extract) are the only pesticides that are not suspected endocrine disruptors or anticholinestease compounds.

If the physical control techniques outlined above are followed then the use of pesticides should prove unnecessary. Recent reports of bed bug resistance to certain groups of active ingredients underlines the importance of non-toxic methods. Pest Control Operators will usually try a product from another group of actives until the problem is solved or they have run out of options(5). Most of these chemicals are skin and eye irritants so use of them could replace one itch with another and the presence of pesticides in the bedroom, often on the bed and mattress is not advisable. 

The main sources for this article were:

  • Common-Sense Pest Control: Least-toxic solutions for your home, garden, pets and community, Olkowski, W., Daar, S. and Olkowski, H., Taunton Press, 1991, 183-186.
  • Insect pest factfile, biology and control, AgrEvo Environmental Health, 1998, 11-12.
    1. PAN UK Active Ingredient Database, 1999.
    2. List of active ingredients that have been approved for use against bed bugs, provided by the Health and Safety Executive 13/05/99 and personal communications 10/02/2000.
    3. Environmental endocrine disruptors, A handbook of property data, Keith, L. H., John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1997, 1232pp.
    4. ENDS Report 290, March 1999, p28.
    5. Pest Control News, February 1999, No.49.

[This article first appeared in Pesticides News No. 47, March 2000, p21]

Are Bed Bug Dogs Up to Snuff?

By: Richard Cooper
Pest Management Professional

Bed bugs are one of the hottest topics in pest management today, and they pose significant challenges for hoteliers, property managers, furniture rental companies and homeowners, just to name a few. One thing that virtually all experts agree on, however, is the importance of detecting bed bugs early on, before populations become entrenched at accounts.The problem is that to date, there are no effective or reliable methods for the early detection of bed bugs. Or are there?

Dogs have been used very effectively for the detection of a wide variety of things including drugs, bombs, fugitives, mold and termites. If you have been watching the news, you know that canine scent detection for bed bugs is also available.On the surface, demonstrations can be very convincing, but be careful: Everything isn’t always what it appears to be.


Termite-sniffing dogs trained in the early 1980s had a false-positive rate of more than 28 percent. (False positives occur when the dogs incorrectly indicate termites are present when there are none.)
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We now know this high false-positive rate was because of the method of training and the purity of the training material. In light of this, we need to be careful and learn from our previous experiences in this new bed bug-detecting canines category.It is very important that bed bug-detecting dogs be highly reliable. Their quality and effectiveness depend on several factors, including:How effectively the dogs are trained;What the dogs are trained to do; andThe ability of handlers to maintain quality bed bug scent detections after the dogs leave their original trainers.In addition, there are uncontrollable factors: Dogs have bad days, just like people do. If the handlers or the dogs are having bad days, the dogs may not perform at their highest levels. An uncomfortable or stressful environment also can affect the dogs’ performance.


Clearly, there is a great deal that goes into producing a highly reliable product that can be counted upon to deliver the highest quality of scent detection. Therefore, when purchasing a detection dog, you should expect full documentation to support the type of training that has taken place and data to support the abilities as well as limitations of the dogs being purchased.You should have access to all training records, supported by a microchip number, a veterinarian-certified health certificate less than 30 days old, and a field deployment demonstration in which the purchaser places “blind hides” for the trainer to find.With a quality training program behind the dog and a strong set of data to support the training program — and an effective handler — you should be able to confidently communicate to your clients what they should expect in the event the dog is brought in to perform bed bug inspections.The industry doesn’t need bed bug-detection dogs to find obvious infestations that can be easily identified through visual inspections. Instead, the goal of canine bed bug scent detection is for the dogs to efficiently find what humans are likely to miss. Otherwise, there’s little need for canines to complement human-led bed bug inspections

Bedbug Traps the climb up interceptor

Climb up interceptors are great for trapping bedbugs before they climb up the bed legs and bite you. The interceptors are placed under each bed leg and when the bedbugs climb up into the interceptors they remain trapped. That makes them great for the treatment of a bedbug infestation because it creates a trap for the bugs to fall into when they are on their way to having a midnight snack from whoever happens to be sleeping in the bed.
The hardest thing about bedbug treatments is that it’s hard to find out where the little critters are hiding at during the day but they have a hard time resisting night time sleepers and the easy feeding that they provide. Therefore, the bedbugs will start at the legs of the bed and crawl upwards then eat for a few minutes and go back to wherever they were hiding at in the first place. If you have climb up interceptors in place and make sure to have your bed scooted away from the wall and any other piece of furniture, the bedbugs will have no way to climb up and feed.
Once they try to climb the interceptors they will fall into the ring of the interceptors that effectively traps them so that you can dispose of them properly in the morning. It is highly recommended to use heat to destroy the live bedbugs that you happen to collect and if you are careful you should burn them because bedbugs can only truly be killed with extreme heat. Also, try to avoid the use of chemicals to kill the bedbugs you have trapped because they will most likely be immune to it and/or it could have adverse effects upon the health of those around it. In the end, since it is so hard to locate the main bedbug nest you can only go with trapping them when they come to feed to get rid of them all.

Bedbug Powder and Why it is the Best

Bedbug powder such as diatomaceous earth is a well known and effective method of eradicating bedbugs from every corner of your home. Diatomaceous earth is a safe and easy method of killing bedbugs and other pests as well.

kills bedbugs
Using bedbug powder is a great way to rid a bug infestation from your home as well as prevent for any unforeseen bedbugs that try to move in. Many people have found that it is highly recommended to bring a bit along with you when you are and about but mainly when you are traveling.
Hotels, condos and other vacation home styled dwellings are known to host many people throughout their time, which makes them a hot bed for lice, fleas, bedbugs and of course, cockroaches. Taking some bedbug powder to any area like that before you settle in for the night could prevent a horrible infestation from getting taken home with you. Traveling is a very risky thing to do and preparing for bedbugs by having a plan of prevention will effectively decrease the risk you have of bringing bed bugs home with you after a trip or vacation of some kind.
Diatomaceous earth is a less harmful method of getting rid of bedbugs and many people prefer to use it over any other method. Chemicals that are hazardous to people are known to be used in extreme bedbug situations but they can have a lasting harmful effect on the people living near where the chemicals had been used. This is the biggest reason that most people might even go as far as to deal with getting bit for a longer amount of time while waiting for an organic method to work instead of risking a chemical related injury that can come from using chemicals that are harmful to humans. All in all, bedbug powder and diatomaceous earth should be your first choice for getting rid of bedbugs.

Bedbug powder works because it causes bug to dehydrate. As bedbug crawls through powder it scratches it shell and adheres to the bug, and sucks the moisture out of the bedbug. The effectiveness of bedbug powder depends on how strategically it was placed.

In addition to using bedbug powder, a good regiment of vacuuming diligently and keeping sleeping areas free of clutter are essential in eliminating bedbugs. It is also good idea to caulk or expand foam any cracks or crevices that bugs may crawl through.

6 ways to Prevent Bedbugs

Below is a video I created using data from The National Pest Management Association. It details 6 ways to prevent getting bedbugs.

The NPMA National Pest Management Association is a higly respected organization in pest control world. They set ptactices and standards that members must abide by.

About NPMA
National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a non-profit organization committed to the protection of public health, food and property. This Web site serves as a comprehensive resource for consumers, media, educators and pest control professionals. From common household pests to do-it-yourself pest control tips, provides timely information and tools to better serve our visitors’ pest management needs.

Please utilize the NPMA website as your main resource for information on bugs, rodents, pest control, and the growing professional pest management industry.

For 75 years, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has represented the interests of its members and the structural pest control industry. Through the efforts of NPMA, the pest control industry is stronger, more professional, and more unified. The NPMA has guided its members and the pest control industry through the creation of verifiable training, the changing technologies used by the industry, and public and media relations. From its beginning in 1933, the NPMA has been a clear, consistently positive voice for the pest control industry, a voice that is respected and listened to.

The major reason for NPMA’s growth and success is that its members have the opportunity to network and share ideas. At each meeting, at each workshop, at each regional conference and national meeting and trade show, members talk to each other and share ideas and expertise, learn about new tools and techniques, and discuss the latest pest issues. In sharing, they grow and prosper and are better prepared to serve their customers. The opportunities to network and learn the latest techniques in professional pest control allow our members to provide qualified and knowledgeable services to their customers.

The values which the founders in 1933 shared are still embraced today as membership of NPMA exceeds 4,600 companies from the United States and other countries.

Headquartered in Fairfax, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C., the association today has a professional staff of technical, regulatory, government affairs, education and member services. 2008 marks the 75th anniversary of NPMA and its commitment to the pest management industry.

Enjoy the video. Do not let the bedbugs bite……

Best way to eliminate bedbugs is to never get them in the first place.

Baby Bedbugs – Ever Wonder From Whence They Came

Baby Bedbugs — Ever Wonder From Whence They Came

Bedbugs have become a nightmare for many individuals across North America, as bedbugs have made a come back big time. Many major cities in USA and Canada have had, what the newspapers are calling a bedbug epidemic. Epidemic may be too harsh a word, but the pest has become quite the nuisance.

Bedbugs hatch from eggs, an adult female can lay as many as 200 eggs in her lifespan. Eggs are almost invisible to naked eye and are usually hidden in crevices. It requires a magnifying device to see them.
See a bedbug hatching.