Natural Pesticides: False Advertising or Bed Bug Boon?

In BITE Back! Vol. 21, we reported on the effectiveness of essential oils for bed bug control. “Green” pest management has become a trend in recent years, with more consumers looking to natural products for insect control to reduce health risks. But because these “minimum risk” (a.k.a. EPA 25B list) pesticides pose little to no threat to human health, they are exempt from more rigorous EPA testing requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The public is often drawn to buying these products by grand claims of effectiveness coupled with the promise of being safe for children and pets. With little regulation and low development costs, manufacturers can quickly roll out these products with bold claims that are not always supported by scientific data. With this in mind, researchers at Rutgers University tested 11 commonly available minimum risk insecticides (9 biopesticides and 2 detergents) on bed bugs collected from infested apartments.

11 Natural Pesticides Tested by Rutgers University Researchers


As suspected, they found that most of the natural insecticides performed poorly against bed bugs, with two notable exceptions: EcoRaider killed 100% and Bed Bug Patrol killed 92% of the bed bugs after 10 days. Pending more testing, both showed promise as natural alternatives to the more toxic conventional insecticides with the added benefit of defeating insecticide resistance. As for the rest, Bed Bug Bully killed only 60% after 10 days, and all others achieved less than than 50% mortality. Notably, researchers found EcoEXEMPT IC2 to be completely ineffective. No matter the effectiveness in the lab, all of these products likely perform less effectively in real-life conditions where bed bugs tend to avoid direct contact by hiding in cracks and crevices.

The results of this study show that more attention is needed to prevent the registration and marketing of ineffective bed bug control products. False advertising can trick consumers into purchasing products that don’t work, resulting in money wasted and a false sense of security that opens the door for bed bugs to spread.  MPAC recommends always consulting with a licensed pest control operator for a bed bug infestation and making sure to use products proven to be effective like those highlighted above or in MPAC’s past BITE Back! newsletters. And, as always, buyer beware!

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