First off, let me say that I am not a pest control professional, and the information presented here is for informational purposes only. There are many companies constantly working on new chemicals for the bed bug epidemic, so there may be new chemicals out since the time this was written. If you want to know what chemical kills bed bugs, consult a trained and certified pest control professional to get the latest information on the most effective pesticides to kill bed bugs for your situation.

 

In general, there are four types chemicals that are used against bed bugs.

  • Natural pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are made from chrysanthemum flowers, which are grown especially for their insecticidal properties. Pyrethrins are considered to be among the safest insecticides for humans, though they can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation. Because natural pyrethrins break down fairly quickly, they will put a dent in the bed bug population, but tend not to have the residual effect necessary to kill off an infestation.

  • Synthetic pyrethrins. These are chemicals with names like deltamethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin. These have longer residual effectiveness and are generally water-based, so they are less likely to damage furniture or wood than their oil-based natural pyrethrin cousins.

  • Inorganic materials, like diatomaceous earth, silica and boric acid. These will last long, and don?t drive bugs away (which you don?t want ? you want them to take a good, deep dose of the bug killer and die). They kill by mechanical action ? scratching open the bug?s skin so it dehydrates. They are good for cracks and crevices, but have to be used in a low-humidity environment. Can leave a whitish film on surfaces.

  • Insect growth regulators (IGRs), such as hydroprene. These don?t generally kill the bugs, but instead disrupt their reproductive cycle, so they cannot lay viable eggs.

Some studies have shown that some bed bugs developing resistance to some of the common synthetic pyrethroid insecticides.

If you are wondering what chemical kills bed bugs, here is a listing of some of the more commonly used bed bug pesticides. States have varying restrictions on their use, and some of these may not be allowed where you live. I have included the active ingredients and EPA registration numbers to make it easier for you track down information on them.


  • Sterifab
  • Active ingredient phenothrin with ispropanol
  • EPA Registration Number 397-13
  • Sterifab is a non-residual insecticide used to treat bed bug infested beds and uphostered furniture. It contains mainly alcohol (which kills bed bugs on contact) and d-phenothrin, which is a pyrethroid. Kills bugs on contact, and has residual effectiveness for about a week.
  • Bedlam
  • Active ingredient phenothrin with MGK264
  • EPA Registration Number 1021-1761
  • Bedlam is another chemical used to treat infested furniture. Like Sterifab, it contains alcohol to kill bugs on contact, along with a pyrethroid.
  • Bedlam is an aerosol, specifically used on the seams, tufts and folds of mattresses. In addition to killing adults, Bedlam has also been shown to kill up to 90 percent of bed bug eggs. Has about a week of residual action.
  • Tempo SC Ultra
  • Active ingredient cyfluthrin, which is a synthetic pyrethrin.
  • EPA Registration Number 3125-498 / 432-1363
  • A low/no odor liquid spray that leaves no visible residue.
  • Tempo SC is a spray used in general surface treatments.
  • Tempo WP and WSP
  • Active ingredient cyfluthrin
  • EPA Registration Number 432-1304/432-1377
  • Tempo WP and WSP are wettable powders used in crevices and cracks.
  • Intruder HPX
  • Active ingredients: cyfluthrin and pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 9444-183
  • A residual insecticide spray. Used in cracks and crevices, it kills quickly, with residual kill action continuing 4-8 weeks.
  • DeltaDust
  • Active ingredient: deltamethrin
  • EPA Registration Number 432-772
  • A powder that can kill bed bugs for up to 8 months after application, if left undisturbed. Odorless.
  • Suspend SC
  • Active ingredient: deltamethrin
  • EPA Registration Number 432-763
  • A spray treatment that provides residual killing action for 2-3 months.
  • D-Force HPX
  • Active ingredient: deltamethrin
  • EPA Registration Number 9444-217
  • A spray that kills bed bugs for up to 8 weeks after use. Can be used on mattresses.
  • Natural Guard Crawling Insect Control
  • Active ingredient: Diatomaceous Earth and Quartz
  • EPA Registration Number 7401-449
  • A DE-based product, can be used on beds.
  • Onslaught
  • Active ingredient: esfenvalerate
  • EPA Registration Number 1021-1815
  • Low odor. Microencapsulated, which means pesticide is released over a long period, creating long residual killing power.
  • Comes in a liquid form, applied as a spray.
  • Gentrol
  • Active ingredient: hydroprene
  • EPA Registration Number 2724-351
  • Should be used with other insecticides. Disrupts the development of immature bed bugs, and prevents nymphs from reaching adulthood. They become sterile and are unable to reproduce.
  • Can inhibit insect growth for as long as to 120 days.
  • Demand CS
  • Active ingredient: lambda-cyhalothrin
  • EPA Registration number 100-1066
  • A popular bed bug insecticide, Demand CD is microencapsulated, meaning longer lasting residual effect. Liquid, applied as a spray. Not to be used on furniture or mattresses.
  • Prelude
  • Active ingredient: permethrin
  • EPA Registration Number 100-997
  • Often used on termites, Prelude is also effective on bed bugs. Used on general surface applications. May stain wood.
  • Kicker
  • Active ingredient: pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 432-1145
  • A general contact killer, not a residual insecticide. However, is often mixed with residual insecticides in the tank, and the cocktail is sprayed on the bugs.
  • Prescription Treatment PI
  • Active ingredient: pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 499-444.
  • Another contact insecticide, comes in a spray can. Labeled for upholstered furniture as well as other areas.
  • CB-80 Extra
  • Active ingredient: pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 9444-175
  • Contact killer, billed as the best selling in the industry. Labeled for use on mattresses.
  • 565 Plus XLO
  • Active ingredient: pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 499 ? 310
  • Drione
  • Active ingredient Silica and pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 432-992
  • A dust intended for use in cracks, crevices and wall voids. Should be applied to areas where it won?t be disturbed. Dries out bed bugs, with residual effectiveness over 6 months.
  • Tri-Die
  • Active ingredient silica and pyrethrins
  • EPA Registration Number 432-755
  • An aerosol that combines the instant killing action of pyrethrin with silica dust. Once sprayed, Tri-Die leaves a dust behind that provides residual killing action.

What Chemical Kills Bed Bugs? - Photo by Piotr Naskrecki, Harvard

Your bed bug exterminator may also use an insecticide such as Phantom (EPA Reg Nr 341-392) or Saga WP (EPA Reg Nr 432-755) that is not directly advised for use with bed bugs, but can be effective in killing them nonetheless.

Again, let me emphasize that there is a lot of new product development happening in this space all the time.  If you want to know what chemical kills bed bugs, or pesticides to kill bed bugs, you'll just have to bite the bullet and call an exterminator.