As if the bed bug epidemic wasn’t bad enough, those bad bed bugs have now upped the game – A recent study, done by the University of Sydney, shows that bed bugs have developed thicker skin. This thicker skin makes Bed bugs immune to sprays, or at least the more common sprays available on the market. These sprays are being used by thousands of people each day.
New study shows bed bugs are becoming resistant to common bed bug sprays
Some scientists believe that the main cause for the bed bug resurgence over the past 15 years is due to this thickening of this skin, while others blame the ban of DDT which occurred in 1972.
“The new findings reveal that one way bed bugs beat insecticides is by developing a thicker ‘skin’. Bed bugs, like all insects, are covered by an exoskeleton called a cuticle. Using scanning electron microscopy, we were able to compare the thickness of cuticle taken from specimens of bed bugs resistant to insecticides and from those more easily killed by those same insecticides.”, said David Lilly, University of Sydney PhD candidate in this article.
Bed bugs are blood sucking insects that thrive in locations occupied by humans. They generally hide during the day, and come out at night to feed on humans while they sleep in their beds. Hence the name bed bugs. Bed bugs bites often leave small red marks on the areas of skin that are in contact with the bed. The bite marks are often in a line where the bed bug moves along the skin and feeds. Bed bugs bites are usually not felt, as bed bugs have a numbing agent in their saliva.
Due to their resurgence and number of outbreaks world wide, people have been aggressively treating bed bugs using various treatment methods, including bed bug sprays. As a result of our efforts to rid ourselves of bed bugs using these sprays, we have inadvertently made the problem worse, by cause the bed bugs to thicken their skin, and almost become immune.
The good news is that not all bed bugs are exhibiting signs of thicker skin. There is still a good mix of skin thickness on the various samples used in the study. The early detection of this change will give manufacturers and scientists time to develop more effective sprays.
“If we understand the biological mechanisms bed bugs use to beat insecticides, we may be able to spot a chink in their armour that we can exploit with new strategies,” – David Lilly
Effective Bed Bug Sprays
While bed bugs are becoming immune to some of the many common sprays, there are still highly effective spray options available.
One of the most effective insecticides against many different insects, including bed bugs is Pyrethrin based products. Pyrethrin comes from chrysanthemum flowers, which are specifically grown for their insecticidal properties. Pyrethrins are considered to be among the safest insecticides for humans, though they can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Pyrethrins are effective against bed bugs, but generally only through direct contact and short term residual contact.
The above mentioned study used used a pesticide called “lambda-cyhalothrin”. Lambda-cyhalothrin is a water based, and synthetic pyrethrin. They have much longer residual effect and have the advantage of being water based, so they don’t damage furniture, walls and carpet like the oil based natural pyrethrins do.
Given the study was only done using the synthetic pyrethrin, “lambda-cyhalothrin”, other natural and chemical based sprays can be used in the home. These include:
- EcoRaider – All natural product that uses the active ingredients: Natural Geraniol, Cedar Oil and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- JT Eaton 217 – Natural Pyrethrin based.
While sprays are a very common treatment strategy for bed bugs, there are many other options. We always recommend using multiple treatment strategies as they are far more effective than just using one. Our top recommended treatment methods include:
- Diatomaceous Earth – All natural product that is sprinkled around your home, and “puffed” into furniture, wall-outlets and other hard to reach areas.
- Steam – Highly effective treatment strategy that uses high temperature steam to penetrate into hard to reach areas, and kills bed bugs AND their eggs on contact.
- Heat – Bed bugs die when exposed to high temperature heat. Heat treatment is one of the most effective bed bug treatment strategies available, and is commonly used by many professionals.
The diminishing effect of bed bug sprays on bed bugs isn’t surprising. Many other insects, including roaches and fleas, have shown they become more resilient when exposed to chemicals over time. This recent study is just another chapter in our ongoing battle against bed bugs.
As we see products begin to stop working, new and more effective products will come out.
Be sure to check back with us regularly to keep up to date with the latest trends on bed bug prevention, detection and treatment strategies. As always, we’re committed to keeping you informed on what works, and what doesn’t.