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 Bed Bug Insecticides

Summary: New insecticides can be used to eliminate bed bugs (all stages) and any eggs that may have been missed during the cleaning of bedding and furniture.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Using bed bug sprays and dust insecticides

The most important part of any bed bug treatment is to thoroughly clean places where bed bugs hide and lay their eggs. These areas include mattress seams and folds, cracks and crevices in bedroom furniture, baseboard molding, and other places near beds where bed bugs might hide (see Bed Bugs for additional information). Cleaning can be done with an ordinary vacuum cleaner and mild upholstery cleaner, but steam cleaners may be the most effective.

Once hiding places are as clean as possible you can apply a residual insecticide to control any bed bugs and eggs that you might have missed with cleaning alone. This application is tricky, however, because products applied to bedding or bedside furniture have the potential to contact anyone who sleeps in the bed. For this reason the material applied must be safe and used strictly in accordance with the label instructions.

Bed bug spray and dust can be used to control adults and eggs.

Bed bug (4th instar larva, unfed) - about 1/5". After feeding bed bugs become less flattened, more rounded.


Insecticidal dusts (see below) should be used to treat baseboard moldings and bedroom furniture. Dusts are easy to apply to small cracks and openings without danger of over-application and spillage. Dusts also have longer residual activity than most other types of insecticides.

Is bed bug spray necessary?

Surfaces like mattresses can be treated with a residual spray insecticide but only use products that are specifically labeled for this use (check package instructions).

Residual spray insecticides are not absolutely necessary if all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned. However, it is easy to miss a few areas where bed bugs might be hiding, or a few eggs that are tucked inside the fold of a mattress. This is where a residual insecticide comes in, to eliminate the last few survivors of the cleaning process.

Apply a very light spray to mattress seams and folds, the undersides of bedside furniture and the bed frame. Do not saturate, a light spray is all that is necessary. Bed bug sprays should NOT be substituted for thorough cleaning of mattresses and treatment of cracks and crevices with a dust insecticide.


Bed bug sprays & dusts

To properly treat a bed bug infestation you'll need fabric cleaner/steam cleaner, a dust insecticide, a bulb duster, and a residual insecticide. There are kits available as well as individual products. Almost any fabric/upholstery cleaner can be used as long as you don't get the mattress fabric too wet. Steam cleaners (available here) can be used as well. The dust insecticide is usually a natural silica or pyrethrum insecticide, both work well but the silica has longer residual activity. For the residual spray insecticide I prefer the new botanical insecticides. I would suggest starting out with a kit such as this one, then replace individual components as necessary.

Bed Bug Control In Homes, Dorm Rooms, Motels/Hostels

Using the following steps you should be able to easily clear, and prevent, most bed bug infestations so long as you catch the infestation at an early stage.

  • Launder bedding as normal.
  • Treat cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide in rooms and around beds with a dust insecticide. "Crack and crevice" treatments should include baseboards and furniture, and other small, protected places where bed bugs can hide during the day. Dusts should be applied with a duster that allows you to puff the insecticide into tight places.
  • Clean soiled mattress fabric with upholstery cleaner or steam.
  • Apply an aerosol spray or wettable powder insecticide to mattress surfaces and seams, follow label instructions for approved uses.
  • Supplies for these treatments as well as Bed Bug Control Kits are available here (DoMyOwnPestControl).

Related Articles

Bed Bugs - Identification & Life History

Eliminating Bed Bugs From Personal Items

Using Insecticidal Soap For Insect Control

Using Natural Dust Insecticides


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Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D.

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