A new study brings bad news for people fighting bedbug infestations and companies that sell over-the-counter insecticides.
Ohio State University entomologists Susan Jones and Joshua Bryant found that "bug bombs" and "foggers" — cheap, insecticide-spraying aerosols that have been marketed for decades as do-it-yourself alternatives to exterminators — were ineffective against even the most vulnerable of bedbugs.
In the study, published last month in the Journal of Economic Entomology, the researchers tested three popular commercial foggers against five wild strains of bedbugs found in Ohio homes and one laboratory strain that had not been exposed to insecticides.
They found that after spraying the bugs with a typical two-hour fog, only the laboratory bugs had died; nearly all of the wild bedbugs, though placed in completely exposed containers, had survived. When the scientists covered the containers with paper to simulate the bedding that the insects often nest in, nearly all the bedbugs from every strain survived — even the laboratory strain.
The scientists concluded not only that most wild bedbugs are resistant to pyrethroids, the active ingredients in fogger aerosols, but also that the fogging process itself is fundamentally flawed.
"The spray can't penetrate through a thin paper sheet, much less into cracks and crevices where bedbugs hide in real life. On top of that, we're dealing with bugs resistant to pyrethroids in the first place" said Jones. "It's a death knell for this type of product."
Jones, who had initially designed the study to test whether foggers caused surviving bedbugs to scatter and inhabit previously uninfested areas, said the results were so unexpectedly poor that she had to backtrack and ask whether these products worked at all.
"After we ran the first spraying experiments, we saw that the bugs were crawling around as if nothing had happened,'" she said.