Humankind has been contending with bed bugs since the days of the caveman. Many researchers believe that bed bugs started off feeding on bats in caves and slowly acquired a taste for human blood. These early human cave inhabitants were the perfect meal. The battle against bed bugs has been going on for centuries. You might be surprised to learn which common household items can help combat these pests.
- Rubbing Alcohol: Alcohol is said to kill bed bugs on contact. Mixing rubbing alcohol with water can create an effective killing spray. Spraying the bed bugs with the toxic mix will kill them as the rubbing alcohol evaporates. The alcohol does not stain which makes it great for use around the home however it can be highly flammable and should be used sparingly. Unfortunately, even though the alcohol kills on contact it is virtually impossible to eradicate an entire colony because bed bugs are professional hiders and the alcohol is ineffective on their eggs. Also, as with all pesticides and other chemicals, some bed bugs have evolved to withstand even alcohol mixed at a 99 percent pure ratio. Lab studies showed that such a potent formula only killed 40 to 50 percent of the bugs it encountered.
- Vinegar: Vinegar is impressively strong. Many people use it as a natural weed killer in the garden or to rid their treasured plants of pests without harm. However, it is unlikely to be strong enough to eradicate bed bugs and cannot penetrate and destroy their eggs. Some people advocate mixing baking soda with vinegar, but no studies have been done to show how effective this combination is.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. It is an active ingredient in many natural pesticides, but it works best for bed bugs when combined with other formulas. Bed bugs can only be effectively killed when they come into full body contact with the oil, and in many cases, adults can still survive. Tea tree oil can also stain surfaces so great care must be taken when using the oil.
- Lavender: Essential oils such as lavender are often the component in natural bug sprays. A study conducted by the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension found that one such formula killed 100 percent of all bed bugs after 10 days and another brand formula killed 92 percent, fairly impressive results however not achieved with lavender oil alone. These natural sprays are less toxic than those with synthetic chemicals and are the preferred method in homes with infants, small children, or pets. In addition, the products leave behind a residue which kills additional bed bugs who come in contact. However, this same study showed that the bed bugs appear to be able to tell a treated surface from an untreated area and tended to avoid the residue.
- Desiccant Dusts: Silica aerogel and diatomaceous earth (DE) have very low toxicity or risk to humans. They are natural and formed from the remains of ancient fossilized sea creatures called diatoms. When bed bugs walk through the dust it creates small lesions in their exoskeleton, allowing the DE to penetrate their skin and absorb the fat and oils from within, completely dehydrating them. In some areas, pest control companies use only desiccant dust to safely eradicate a home of an invasion. The dust is inexpensive and can be purchased online or at garden supply retailers.
- Pyrethroid Sprays: Pyrethroid sprays are a common defense against household insects that people often keep on hand. Unfortunately, they use a toxic mode of action that can be harmful to humans and have become ineffective against bed bugs over the years due to a building resistance.
- Hair Dryer: Hair dryers can pump out an excessive amount of heat, but unfortunately not enough to fight bed bugs. In order to effectively kill bed bugs using heat, the temperature must top 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Sadly, a hair dryer cannot do the job. If you focus the heat on a single bug and blast it with the hair dryer it might die, but you are not going to destroy an entire colony. When a professional exterminator uses heat, they bring in specially designed machines that heat the entire space evenly. You can however use your clothes dryer to kill any bugs on your clothing, bedding, or shoes as it easily meets the required temperature.
- Double Sided Tape: Some people wrap double-sided tape around the legs of their bed to prevent the bugs from crawling up onto the mattress and biting. This might help protect you while you sleep but it will not kill the colony. And don’t think that you can starve the bugs out because an adult bed bug can live up to a year without blood.
The home remedies listed have varying degrees of success. While they may help you kill a few bed bugs, they won’t be effective at wiping out an entire colony.
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