Essential Oils Fail at Killing Bed Bugs

Consumers desperate to eradicatetiny domestic vampireshave created ahuge marketfor natural bed bug control. Salesarehigh, as are some of the claims; bogus bed bug products have prompted multipleFederal Trade Commission (FTC) actions for deceptive advertising.

Newresearch put11 over-the-counter bed bugspraysto the test to see if essential oils can do more than make your bedroom smell nice. The results were underwhelming.

Potential of Essential Oil-Based Pesticides and Detergents for Bed Bug Control. 2014. N. Singh, C Wang, & R. Cooper.J. Econ. Entomol. 107(6); DOI:

The products tested containedingredients foran aromatherapy overdose: cedar, cinnamon, geraniol, clove oil, peppermint, rosemary, lemon grass oil, citronella, and others. Additionalingredients were soap (sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent commonly found in shampoo); salts (potassium sorbate); and 2-Phenethyl propionate, which occurs naturally in peanuts.

Most of the products failed a very simple test: if you sprayed the stuffdirectly on live bed bugs in a petri dish, would they die? Researchers measured bug deaths after 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10 days to make sure they captured any lingeringeffects. Two conventional pesticides were included for comparison purposes in the tests:Temprid SCandDemand CS. There also were control bed bugs that got spritzed with water as a mock spray treatment.

Seven of the natural products tested did not manage to kill even(50%)of the bed bugs sprayed, measured by dead bugs 10 days later.

Only Temprid SCandEcoRaiderkilled 100% of the bugswhen applied directly. AlthoughTemprid SC, a synthetic pesticide, killed 100% of the bed bugs on the first day, only88% of bedbugs in the EcoRaider tests had died by the 5th day. None of the compounds tested acted as repellents to bed bugs in climb-up tests, where the bugs had to walk over a treated area.

Thesecond synthetic pesticide, Demand CS, performed poorly in these trials, probably because of resistance to pyrethroid insecticidesin the bed bugs tested. It did, however, do betterin residual tests; 14 days later Demand CSwas still killing on a level with EcoRaider and Temprid SC.

It Might Not Be the Essential Oils, Anyway

Perhaps the most interesting and confusing conclusion from this research is that essential oils are probablynotwhat killed thebed bugs. The same active ingredients inEcoRaider and Bed Bug Patrol were also in other products (Bed Bug Fix, Green Rest Easy, and Essentria, for example) thatwerent effective killers. What actually killed the bugs is likely something in the spray formulation.

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Essential Oils Fail at Killing Bed Bugs

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