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Which Insecticide Spray Should You Use For Bed Bug Eggs?

Adult bed bug

Well, it depends. The efficacy of different insecticide sprays depends on a few different factors, such as which strain of bed bug is being treated, how resistant the strain is to the insecticide being used, and the permeability of the chemicals in relation to the egg shell composition, reports a recent study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

In the study, researchers from Clemson University tested four insecticide sprays against bed bug eggs and recorded how many eggs ended up hatching. For the eggs that did hatch, the researchers also recorded how many of those nymphs survived a week, as the bugs came into contact with residuals of the insecticides after they hatched.

Two different bed bug strains were used for the study. One was from a colony of bed bugs kept by Harold Harlan for more than 40 years without any exposure to insecticides. The second strain was a Jersey City strain, which is resistant to a class of insecticides known as pyrethroids and recently showed moderate resistance to neonicotinoids. The Jersey City strain is closer to what would be found in the field or to what people would find in their homes than the Harold Harlan strain is.

During the test, all insecticides fared well against the Harold Harlan strain. A pyrethroid and a neonicotinoid/pyrethroid mix both resulted in no eggs hatching, while a pyrethroid/pyrethroid synergist mix and a halogenated pyrrole both killed all nymphs.

However, for the Jersey City strain, results got a bit more muddled. The pyrethroid/pyrethroid synergist mix allowed 84% of eggs to hatch, and 99% of hatched nymphs survived. The pyrethroid and halogenated pyrrole both allowed over 90% of eggs to hatch, but killed nearly all nymphs after hatching. The neonicotinoid/pyrethroid mix only allowed 13% of eggs to hatch, and killed 38% of nymphs after hatching.

What do these results mean for the person trying to kill bed bug eggs?

The most effective insecticide overall was the neonicotinoid/pyrethroid mix, suggesting that having the dual active ingredients might give the best chance for success.

The study also shows that reading labels is important. For example, the pyrethroid and halogenated pyrrole both allowed nearly all eggs to hatch, but then killed nearly all nymphs. This result makes sense because neither product was labeled for bed bug eggs specifically.

The pyrethroid/pyrethroid synergist mix performed poorly both in terms of preventing egg hatch and killing nymphs. The label recommended spraying eggs for 13 seconds or until damp. The researchers sprayed the pyrethroid/pyrethroid synergist until damp to ensure that the application rate was similar to other products used in the study while applying the product at a rate that still followed the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If this insecticide was sprayed for 13 seconds, results might have shown it to be more effective.

In short, finding the right insecticide isn’t always easy. Make sure to read the labels to find the right product for your needs. If that product doesn’t work, you might be dealing with a resistant population and may need to find an insecticide with a different or additional active ingredient or seek the help of a pest control professional to identify an effective treatment plan.

Josh Lancette

Josh Lancette

Photo caption: Adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) taking a blood meal from a human. Not yet fully engorged. Photo courtesy of Gary Alpert, Harvard University, Available at


  1. Method of application is sometimes more important than chemical selection. Decades old natural pyrethrin insecticides can be effective – I eliminated a major mattress/box spring bedroom infestation of bed bugs via setting off an old fashion total release natural pyrethrin aerosol fogger inside the bedroom while the mattress and box spring were turned on their sides and a floor fan was running to circulate the insecticidal fog thoroughly all over the room. Aerosol fogs of natural pyrethrins have several days of residual killing and repellancy power when used indoors and fans greatly enhance the effectiveness of bed bug room fogging applications.

  2. Don’t waste your time or money on any insecticide for bedbugs. Use heat. A contractor’s heat cannon used to heat construction sites can be rented and used to increase heat to 150 degrees for 1.5 hrs. It not only kills the adults but the eggs too. Bedding can be put in a commercial dryer for the same effect.
    No furniture or belongings are moved or disturbed unless its susceptible to melting.
    I’m a landlord. I’ve done this in the most infested houses you can imagine. It works better than any chemical and it can be done in one afternoon or morning.

    • Does one do this room by room, setting the cannon up for 1.5 hours? Or, do you put the heater in a central location in the home or apartment ?

      • Sher – It depends on the size of the house. In a 2-bed, 600sf home, I began heating the home with the heat cannon in the living room until temps reached 150 deg. and maintained it for 1.5 hrs. With a laser instant-read digital temp tool, I aimed it at the walls and the bedrooms, which were not hot enough. I moved the heat canon into each bedroom but it only took a few min. to reach 150. Maintained temp for 1 hr in each bedroom. It’s an all-day process but so worth it because it kills all bugs and the eggs.
        To Heather – heating your clothes, towels, linens and pet bedding in a commercial dryer at high for 30 – 40min. will kill all bed bugs and eggs. They generally lay eggs in a hiding location (like bedding) not on animals or humans. DO NOT SQUISH adult bed bus, in the blood are the eggs which are still viable. They are resilient insects.

      • Hi Cor – Yes! There was only once within one month that a bed bug was seen on my tenant’s shirt while she was at work. Not know where that bug came from, I took all of her clothes from her closet and subjected them to the highest heat from a commercial dryer for 30 min. Other than that incident in which the bug may have come from the house, there was never another bed bug observed in that house or bites on tenants for as long as I owned it (over 3 years since). That was an entire day spent treatting the house with one heat canon and moving it to each room of the house for min. 30 min each. It was blisteringly hot but for short term moving the cannon, just like a dry sauna. Steam also works but moisture may cause mold to develop in the home.
        Be sure you have a laser temp guage to test wall temps – they need to be at least 110º F if you want to get at the bugs and eggs behind moldings, etc.

    • Where do you go to rent one of these heat canons? And how expensive does it run? My daughter has a problem and is low income and health problems. Is there a fire danger? Will it hurt TVs or DVD players? Need info as soon as possible please. She cant afford new couch. We have new covers for mattress and box springs and pillows.

      • Hello Lavonne – I bought mine for just over $100. The one I use is a Mossy Oak brand forced air heater, like this one:
        but I think you can rent them at any contractor equipment rental operation. Get a standard propane tank (from your BBQ) for the fuel. You will also need an infrared thermometer that you can buy from Amazon like mine: This is absolutely necessary to take repeated temperatures of all surfaces as the room is heating up.

        Here is my protocol to heat your rooms and kill the bed-bugs wherever they’re hiding

        1) Remove all bedding and put it in the dryer (or wash it first) at the highest temp. and let it cook in the dryer for at least 30 min. This would also include pillows and clothing, but what I do with clothing that I’m not going to be wearing right away is to place it in black plastic garbage bags and leave it in the summer sun if it gets over 95º. The bugs will die in heat so the hot sun will bake the little suckers in the bag. You can turn the bag every now and then if it has a lot of clothing in it. You can also wrap your mattress in black plastic and let it bake (I lived in Phx, AZ) but if that’s cumbersome, you can leave it in the room.
        2) remove all flammable or melt-able objects in the room (this would include plastic miniblinds, etc. Definitely remove, photos, nice paintings, & electronics and seal them in plastic bags and don’t open the bags for several months – just store them.
        3) take the mattress off the box spring and stand each separately so that the air can move around them. Open drawers, closets, etc – you want the air to flow around everything including the carpet so that’s why you want to stand the box on edge as well.
        4) As an extra precaution – take a large piece of ceramic tile (I use a 16″ X 16″ but a 12″ X 12″ will work) and set it where you’re going to place it under the front legs of heater on the floor. This is to shield your flooring from the immediate blast from the heater’s opening (it’s forced air so it moves past quickly into the room). I’ve used the heater without this tile and never had a problem because the flames are well inside the cannon. The cannon is built so that the flames are well inside the barrel.
        5) Set your heater in the doorway of the room to give it distance from any furniture or objects in the room. Place the propane tank farther back OUTSIDE the room and hook up the heater to the tank (obviously while the valve is off). Make sure the connection are tight!
        6) Have a fire extinguisher at the ready just to give you peace of mind that you have the abilty to put out a flame in case someone forgot and left the nail polish remover in the room.
        7) plug in the heater (the fan will go on)
        8) Open the valve to the propane tank
        9) Ignite the heater by pressing the ignition – you’ll hear a roar as the flame ignites inside the cannon. I strongly advise doing a practice run outdoors so you’ll get used to all of this and aren’t nervous.
        10) Let the heater run and begin taking temperature readings with the thermometer of all surfaces: furniture, floor, curtains on the windows, walls, etc. This is where you’ll see temps start to rise but it takes time to get to 115º which is what you want to read on the walls (where bugs and eggs are in the crevices, baseboards, etc) If the mattress is standing, you’ll see the temps get hotter at the top than at the bottom. Once they get to that temp, you’re done – it’s gotten hot enough to destroy the eggs.
        11) Make sure the temps get to that level, but know that 115 degrees is not hot enough for any furniture or cotton padding to combust. Her couch will be just fine – won’t hurt the fabric unless it’s got a lot of plastic in it – i.e. thin nylon. Just make sure that there are no papers, or fabrics near the front of the heater. Draperies on the windows are OK to leave so long as they are at least 6′ away from the front of the heater.

        12 – You can also rent a steam-cleaner that allows you to do sections of the sofa but I’ve never tried that so I wouldn’t know how successful or cumbersome that is.

        You’ll have to go room by room but if you do it methodically and do the bedrooms first (so you can sleep that night) then the living areas, you’ll not only be bed-bug free but also dust-mite free, spider free, ant free, etc.

        It’s a process but it is indeed do-able. I recently did this again because a contractor brought his mange ridden dog into my house which caused me to get scabies and my cats to get the mites too. Those are fun too . .not.

        That’s about it. Good luck!!

  3. To Heather – First – heating your clothes, towels, linens and pet bedding in a commercial dryer at high for 30 – 40min. will kill all bed bugs and eggs. They generally lay eggs in a hiding location (like bedding) not on animals or humans. DO NOT SQUISH adult bed bugs. The eggs are in the blood and are still viable after you squish them so they could end up hatching and infesting the place again. Bed bugs prefer human hosts but will use other animals. After feeding they will leave the host and hide. Eggs are usually laid in nesting sites like bedding – not on the hosts. They’re not like lice that live on the host.

  4. To Lee Magadini– Or someone who followed his advice. Could you please tell my a little more about the contractor”s cannon that you used? How many BTU’s did it have? Also, could you tell me what laser instant-read digital temp tool that you used? My 88-year old, terminally ill father lives in an apartment complex in Reno, and I live in California with my disabled husband. Still, it seems to be time for me to take matters into my own hands. My father’s apartment, and reportedly those adjacent to it and above it, were fumigated by Western Exterminators two weeks ago. All mattresses were encased, and my father’s caregiver installed interceptors under the legs of his bed. She also put Lavan strips from Bed Bug Supply in the plastic boxes to which we transferred my father’s books and papers, She then bagged the boxes. .All washables were run through hot water; and non-washables were run through a hot dryer. Three days ago, live bed bugs were found and reported to management. The best course of action might be to move my father, but he considers this his home, We have moved him and his clothing to a temporary location. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated

  5. With all due respect I’m an exterminator and your a landlord. Chemical treatment works if you know what your doing. And your heat cannon pushes them deeper into walls and voids.

    • With all due respect, I am not only a landlord but also a published scientist (using my first name Debra Magadini) and science educator. I appreciate your point of view, Sean, and I’m sure you know your biz; however, I’ve had 3 successful exterminations using the heat cannon method – complete eradication each time. These were intense infestations and one time treatment was all it took. I’m horrified that the poisons used to kill the bbs and eggs are chemicals like neonicotinoids. Also, many professional exterminators successfully use heat to eradicate bbs as well – they just charge thousands of dollars to do so. My DIY version is simple and inexpensive. Be sure to meticulously prep the room to remove any easily flammable or melt-able items like candles, keep constant monitoring while the heat cannon is on (standing behind the heat cannon is safe) and drink plenty of fluids while doing it.

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