For decades, “bug bombs” or “foggers” have been sold as over-the-counter (OTC) products for consumer use against many common household insects. Foggers act by broadcasting an insecticide mist by way of an aerosol propellant. These products typically are easy to use and require little effort, and they are commonly used by consumers as a low-cost alternative or supplement to professional pest control services. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently estimated that about 50 million foggers are used annually in the United States.
The name “bug bomb” seems rather fitting given that explosions have been reported when excessive numbers of foggers have been used or when a nearby ignition source, such as a pilot light, has remained on during fogging. Such explosions are newsmakers worldwide.
Foggers have been implicated in human injury and illnesses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 466 cases of acute, pesticide-related illness or injury associated with exposure to total-release foggers in eight states between 2001 and 2006 (Wheeler et al. 2008).
So…are these products effective against household insects? Many members of the pest management industry have expressed concern that foggers appear to be largely ineffective, particularly against crawling insects that are not on exposed surfaces.
Indeed, a study by Ballard et al. (1984) showed that German cockroaches moved from fogged units to adjacent units in 50 percent of apartments, with increased catches of cockroaches the night following the fogger treatment. Furthermore, German cockroaches prematurely released their oothecae (egg cases), resulting in an increase in newly hatched nymphs in response to fogging with pyrethrins (Kardatzke et al. 1982) or dichlorvos (Ballard et al. 1984). Hence, fogging actually has been shown to increase problems with some insects.
Bed bugs have made a worldwide comeback, and the market now is inundated with consumer products for bed bug control. Some of the product claims are rather incredible, and one could easily imagine that such products should solve our bed bug problems. But instead, bed bugs are an increasingly worrisome urban pest in communities nationwide.
Not unexpectedly, foggers are a common OTC product used against bed bugs. However, prior to our current study, there was no published information regarding the efficacy of foggers against bed bugs. Pyrethrins and pyrethroids (synthetic versions of pyrethrins) are the most common active ingredients in OTC foggers, but there is concern regarding their effectiveness given that pyrethroid resistance is well documented and widespread in field-collected bed bugs and has been implicated in the resurgence and challenge of bed bug control (Romero et al. 2007, Zhu et al. 2010, Bai et al. 2011).
In our study, we tested three different fogger brands obtained from a nationwide retailer to assess their effectiveness against bed bugs. One of these products, the Hotshot Bedbug and Flea Fogger (0.05% pyrethrins, 0.1% esfenvalerate, 0.1% piperonyl butoxide, 0.167% MGK 264, 0.1% nylar), is specifically labeled for use against bed bugs and claims it “kills on contact” and provides “effective long-term control.” Our most extensive testing was done with the Hotshot Fogger because it specifically is marketed for use against bed bugs (and fleas).
We also tested Spectracide Bug Stop Indoor Fogger (0.1% tetramethrin, 0.6% cypermethrin) and Eliminator Indoor Fogger (0.515% cypermethrin), which are labeled for use against flying and crawling pests in homes. Neither of these two products lists bed bugs on its label. Nonetheless, these foggers can be used against bed bugs in many states, whose regulatory requirements are that only the site (e.g., indoors) has to be specified by the label, not the particular pest.
Our study provides strong evidence that Hotshot Bedbug and Flea Fogger, Spectracide Bug Stop Indoor Fogger, and Eliminator Indoor Fogger were ineffective as bed bug control agents. Our data also support the position that currently marketed OTC total-release foggers should not be recommended for treating bed bug infestations since the insecticide mist does not penetrate into typical bed bug harborage sites.
This article in its entirety can be read at pctonline.com.