Jeffery White, research entomologist for BedBug Central, a site established to help the public find research-verified information about bedbug treatments, talked to Consumer Ally to help us sort it all out.
We asked White about the Home Sentinel Indoor Home Pest Control Repeller found on Amazon.com, which claims for $39 to eliminate pests, including bedbugs, "with tremendous ion-pumping power, heavy pounding electromagnetic waves, ...and pest repelling ultrasonic sound waves."
His answer? "Those [electronic devices] have shown no effect on insects whatsoever."He is frequently asked about a similar product he finds equally as ineffective, the Riddex Bed Bug Zapper, which also claims to drive away bedbugs using ultrasonic waves. "If pest control was that easy," White said, "none of these pest control companies would have a job."
Another device that he finds ineffective is the Purelight UV Light Sterilization Ultraviolet Hand, which in its ad "guarantees a 99.9% kill rate of bacteria viruses including dust mites & bed bugs." White said that, "There has been no evidence that has shown that these are effective in any way, shape or form against bedbugs."
He has also tested claims that ozone, which is an effective treatment for house molds and bacteria, can be used to kill bedbugs. Laboratory tests by manufacturers found ozone effective in killing bedbugs at concentrations of 100 parts per million or more, but when White set up real-world tests of the technology in infested homes, the ozone purveyors were unable to generate anything close to this concentration. Therefore, the treatment was ineffective. White also expressed concern that, since ozone is an unstable molecule, it might react with other molecules in the household to produce hazardous substances.
Many people are adverse to spraying bug-killing man-made chemicals in their homes, particularly their bedrooms, so I asked White about the many natural treatments on the market, such as cinnamon or lavender sprays. He explained that one of the devilishly difficult aspects of bedbugs is their propensity to hide in cracks and crevices. While these sprays might well kill bedbugs on contact, he said, they would most likely not harm those bugs hiding away, and since these products lose efficacy when they dry, they would have little effect on an infestation.
White said one product, diatomaceous earth, is useful as one element of a treatment program.
Another type of device is the fogger, which disperses a chemical throughout a room by aerosol spray. White explained that these are space treatments, the kind that might work well for flying insects. Again, however, since bedbugs live in cracks and crevices, the fog would not likely reach them. In fact, he said, foggers could make the infestation worse; the bugs, detecting a dangerous chemical in the air, might seek out new parts of the house to hide in, or, in an apartment building, even invade adjacent dwellings.
So what can you do if you have an infestation?
White suggests hiring a pro if you can afford one: in the northeast, he said, you can expect to pay $800 to $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment. The treatment, he cautioned, is complicated and requires research and diligence. Also, pros have access to chemicals not available to the amateur.
If you do have to take on this job yourself, he suggests doing your research, find out what products do the best job under your circumstances. There are hundreds of products for bedbugs, and the cost of bug-proof encasements for your, for detectors, interceptors and chemicals might well run into the hundreds of dollars.
If you can't afford professional help, you might consider putting your name in for BedBug Central's holiday charitable program, Taking The Bite Out Of the Holidays. Through this program, pest-control companies across the country donate, to those deemed most in need, free help in treating bedbug infestations.