When you are weighing whether or not to use pesticides, keep in mind that pesticides alone are not a magic bullet. Alone they are not going to get rid of bed bugs. You really have to think of pesticides as just one more weapon in the arsenal against bed bugs.
That said, we at ZappBug do feel that they have a place but only when used in conjunction with all of the other steps. We also realize though that a lot of people feel really strongly against pesticides because of the exposure to toxins and that’s understandable. So, what it comes down to is you are really weighing on one hand the additional help that pesticides will give you in getting rid of bed bugs versus the exposure to toxins that you’ll get. That’s only a choice that you can make. For myself, I found pesticides to be helpful when I had bed bugs. But I have to say that I felt they were helpful only in conjunction with all of the other steps.
If you do decide to use pesticides, you probably should get a professional to apply them. They are toxic chemicals. But unfortunately, there are a lot of pest control professionals who are maybe using the wrong pesticides. What you want to do when you call up a pest control company is ask them if they are using pyrethroid based pesticides. This is what you want to avoid, pyrethroids. The reason is that pyrethroids have been around for a long time and bed bug populations out in the real world, a lot of those populations have gained a resistance to them. They are just not as effective as they might once have been (see our blog post about this – bed bugs resistant to 1000X lethal dose). If the pest control company confirms that yes they do use pyrethroid based pesticides, you probably want to find a different pest control company.
So, what should they be using? Well there are a number of more effective pesticides out there on the market. These are a very popular combination, Phantom here as a liquid, also as an aerosol and Gentrol. These are not the only ones that are used out there but they are a popular combination. Phantom is a relatively new pesticide and reports are that bed bugs don’t have resistance to it yet. The thing to keep in mind is that when exposed to Phantom, bed bugs don’t die immediately. It actually takes them a while to die after exposure. Gentrol is basically birth control for pests. In the past it has been used a lot to try to control roach populations and it has been found more recently that it’s also effective against bed bugs. What is does is it prevent the bug from molting and thus growing up and being able to breed and reproduce but it doesn’t kill the bug. So, that’s why Gentrol and Phantom are often used together. Gentrol works as birth control and Phantom as the actual killer.
When you have a pest control company come out they are going to want to come back at least one more time for a follow-up spraying. The reason is that they’ll want to come back in a week or two in hopes of getting any more bed bugs that may have hatched in the interim. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of pesticides, residual and non-residual. Those are the two classifications. Residual means that the pesticide resides – continues to reside for a few months. Both Gentrol and Phantom are residual so after spraying they’ll last up to four months or so. That’s a good thing because they continue to kill any bed bugs that might get exposed to them. Non-residual means of course that they don’t reside and that they dissipate fairly quickly.
The other thing is that pesticides are classified as either repellant or non-repellant. Repellant means that if you were to draw a circle of a pesticide and the bed bug was in the middle, the bed bug would avoid going out of that circle. It’s repelled by that pesticide. Non-repellant is the opposite, it doesn’t repel the bug at all. With Gentrol and Phantom, they are non-repellant and bed bugs will readily travel through them. Diatomaceous earth which we discuss in Step 4 (see Step 4: Diatomaceous Earth) would be considered repellant if you are using a thick enough bead because it forms this barrier that bed bugs don’t want to actually travel though.
Now you can do your own pesticide control if you want. All of these chemical are readily available on the web, including spray bottles. If you do that, you would have to read the directions very carefully and follow them carefully. But we don’t recommend that. These are toxic chemicals so our advice is actually to get a pest control professional to apply them.