|Improper application of an insecticide dust to a |
mattress and pillows by a non-professional. Dusts are
designed for light application to crevices and
voids, out of reach of people.
A recent article in Science News gloomily summarized some of the most current information about DIY bed bug control, based on papers presented last month at the annual conference of the Entomological Society of America in Austin, TX.
It will come of little surprise to most PMPs that rubbing alcohol, bug bombs and other products just don't work that well. And some products, like ultrasonic repellers, are completely ineffective. Science News reported that rubbing alcohol killed only about half of the bed bugs that were sprayed directly, in work conducted by Changlu Wang, of Rutger's University. Bed bugs confined in a plastic bag for seven days with mothballs (a much higher exposure than you would expect in a clothes closet or storage chest) had about the same survival rate.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Global Bed Bug Summit in Denver, CO. One of the debates at that meeting was over the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth (both a professional and DIY product). Despite the fact that PMPs have reported success with d.e. over the years as part of an IPM program for bed bugs, some researchers question its effectiveness in the field.
Despite the fact that no resistance to d.e. among bed bugs has ever been documented, it is never been hailed as a miracle product. Appropriate application sites for d.e. are limited. It is not really designed for broadcast use, and few applicators, especially non-professionals, know how to apply dusts correctly (see image). To liven the debate, one recent field study by Michael Potter's lab in Kentucky found that professional applications of d.e. provided inconsistent, or only marginal, bed bug control when used by itself, without sprays or other supplemental treatments. Field studies like these are much more difficult to conduct, but usually provide a better estimate of how a product is likely to perform in real life, compared to laboratory tests in a Petri dish (Potter, by the way, contends that silica aerogel, found in professional products Drione® and TriDie®, is a more effective desiccant than diatomaceous earth).
Why the conflicting results? No one knows for sure. But d.e. is an abrasive that scrapes away some of the protective waxes that keep bed bugs from drying out (desiccating) in the dry indoor environments of homes. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of d.e. may have something to do with the source or form of the diatomaceous earth (the various d.e. products are mined from different geological deposits and thus may vary in abrasiveness), or it may have to do with the ambient humidity or availability of food. Many insects compensate for water leakage cause by desiccant dusts by taking in more water from feeding. Perhaps bed bugs in the field are able to compensate for moisture loss by taking in more moisture through more blood feeding. Not a pleasant thought if you're the one being fed on.
All of this, of course, supports the idea that professional pest control is the best option for bed bug eradication. As a professional, your training and expertise can provide a lifeline for the public in desperate search of a bed bug solution. The professional products at your disposal are superior to most over the counter products, and your ability to problem-solve gives you a big edge over weekend bug-killing warriors.
There will always be do-it-yourselfers. But there is also a great need for trained professionals to get the job done safely and effectively. Let's get out there and show them how it's done.