Perhaps the first questions asked after discovering an infestation is what home remedies will work. There are numerous reasons why you might choose to handle invading bugs on your own, such as cost or avoiding dangerous chemicals. Unfortunately, bed bugs are a special case and cannot be completely eliminated by these treatments.
Once nearly eradicated in developed countries, they have become more populous than ever and have a high resistance to insecticides. Their ability to fit into tiny spaces and exclusive diet of blood further reduce the effectiveness of many do-it-yourself remedies.
One of the most popular home remedies for insects is tea tree oil. Used to both repel and kill bugs, it is likely the first solution you will hear. But just what is tea tree oil, and does it live up to its reputation?
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a natural extract from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, native to Australia. It features a pleasant camphor smell and is comprised of over 100 components. While toxic if consumed, the oil has displayed strong antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial qualities that are currently being researched to determine whether tea tree oil is an effective topical antimicrobial treatment. Used to treat both acne and insect bites, tea tree oil is widely available at most health stores.
How Does it Work against Insects?
Among the qualities of tea tree oil is its use as a combination insect repellent and natural insecticide against numerous pests, including mosquitoes, ants, and other biting or stinging insects. It has also been used to effectively kill lice and other parasites. The solvent properties of tea tree oil soaks into an insect’s exoskeleton upon contact and suffocates them. For this reason, tea tree oil is a common home remedy against bug infestations, as an alternative to chemical repellents on people and pets, and even in protecting gardens.
Will Tea Tree Oil Eliminate Bed Bugs?
The recommended method of using tea tree oil to combat bed bugs is diluting 20 drops of oil in a spray bottle and spraying the bed sheets. This simple approach is, unfortunately, ineffective. Bed bugs may only be killed by direct contact with undiluted tea tree oil, which is harmful to humans. In addition, a small percentage of people are allergic to the oil and may suffer skin irritation upon contact.
Finally, bed bugs tend to hide in tiny cracks within the bed frame or nearby furniture, picture frames, and even electrical outlets. Spraying these may cause staining or create the risk of electric shock without any real chance of eliminating the infestation.
Are There Better Options?
There are a wide variety of do-it-yourself treatment methods available for repelling or eliminating insects. Of these, several have been suggested for bed bugs due to their effectiveness on other species. It is important to understand that the nature of a bedbug infestation is different from termites, ants, or cockroaches. Thus, these methods are often either ineffective or simply not viable.
For example, diatomaceous soil is a nontoxic remedy used against cockroaches and other insects. This substance will absorb the waxy outer layer of an insect’s exoskeleton and lacerates the legs and shells as they crawl across, causing dehydration and death. Ingestion of the soil will destroy the digestive systems, also causing death. Unfortunately, spreading diatomaceous soil on and around your bed is as comfortable as spreading sand, cancelling out any potential benefits.
Using a Vacuum Cleaner or Steam Cleaner
While this does not sound like an effective solution, bed bugs do not live in colonies or hives like many other insect pests. Thus, eliminating many of the females and their eggs is sometimes as simple as sucking them up. Vacuum your mattress, the cracks of your headboard, and the surrounding area thoroughly. You will not get all of the bedbugs, but you will reduce their numbers. Be sure to remove the bag or canister somewhere safe to avoid any escapes. Steam cleaning is even more effective, as bed bugs cannot withstand high temperatures. Note that these methods will not eliminate your infestation, they will merely reduce the severity.
Using Your Dryer
Another method which has some minor effect on bed bug populations is to place all of your sheets and linen into the dryer on its highest setting for at least 30 minutes. The heat will kill all eggs, nymphs, and adults. Unfortunately, your dryer can only eliminate those bed bugs which are trapped inside. It will not have any effect on those bugs who are hiding in other locations such as in your bed frame.
Hiring a Professional
Bed bugs are a serious problem which spreads quickly if undetected. These pests have become highly resistant to insecticides and can hide in very small spaces due to their tiny, flat shape. Hiring a professional exterminator to inspect and remove the bed bugs is the only effective solution. They will be able to fully assess your infestation and determine the best method for removal.
Remember: if you are suffering from bedbugs, there’s a high risk of them hitching a ride to work, a gym, or any other place you frequent in order to spread to other homes. Do not rely on home remedies to completely eliminate the problem, and be aware that you will be in direct contact with any treated areas every night, making chemicals an unwise solution.