Bug bombs are one choice available to homeowners who choose to use a chemical insecticide to control an indoor bug infestation. Bug bombs are sold as aerosol cans that release their contents into the air; the contents then settle over all the surfaces in the home and kill any bugs that come into contact with them. Bug bombs very commonly contain pesticides such as pyrethrum, and understanding limitations and potential hazards associated with this chemical and with bug bombs in general can help you decide if bug bombs are the right choice for controlling pests in your home.
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Problems With Bug Bombs
University of Kentucky Extension entomologist Michael Potter warns against the use of bug bombs inside the home in the UK Extension publication "Limitations of Home Insect Foggers ("Bug Bombs")." Insects tend to spend most of their time in places that aerosol foggers cannot reach, such as behind walls and inside cracks and crevices. Bug bombs also tend to have a repellent rather than a lethal effect on indoor pests, forcing the pests deeper into hiding rather than actually killing them.
Of particular concern to extension entomologists are the chemicals commonly used in bug bombs, including pyrethrin, pyrethrum and other pyrethroids. Pyrethrum is often marketed as a safe or natural insecticide because it is derived form chrysanthemum flowers, but pyrethrum is known to cause irritation to anyone with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pyrethroids are highly toxic to aquatic organisms. But note that these chemicals are approved for safe indoor use, and the question of whether or not they actually present a hazard to humans and animals depends on numerous individual factors.
Misuse of pyrethrum bug bombs is likely the most common cause of indoor hazards associated with these products. Bug bomb instructions typically advise homeowners to safely stow away all pet food and human food before releasing the bomb; a failure to do this can be potentially hazardous as particulates from the bug bombs settle onto food. Homeowners who fail to avoid using cigarettes, pilot lights or any other open flame near a released bug bomb -- again, as labelled instructions advise them to do -- can inadvertently cause an indoor fire.
Many different types of bugs can become indoor pests and require immediate action from the homeowner to alleviate the ill effects of the infestation. Each species requires an unusual approach to pesticide use; but in general, bug bombs tend to be the least effective pesticide option available to homeowners. In particular, those bug bombs containing pyrethrum may present more drawbacks than benefits. Indoor pest control measures should be based on natural practices such as exclusion and sanitation and, when pesticide use is warranted, homeowners should investigate insecticidal soaps, residual dusts or professional pesticide applications by exterminators rather than bug bombs.
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