Bedbugs are human parasites that live in and around bedding and mattresses, biting sleeping people at night to consume their blood. These insects were found only in relatively low populations in the United States until around the year 2000, when populations began to increase, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Bedbugs don't transmit diseases but can cause anxiety, increased stress and sleeping problems. These durable parasites are difficult to kill and don't respond to many natural or chemical treatments, including garlic.
These blood-feeding insects have very flat, reddish-brown bodies, six legs and no wings. The adults are between 3/8 inch and 1/4 inch long. Younger bed bugs are smaller and lighter in color. Immediately after feeding, the bugs are bright red and distended in appearance. Most people with mild infestations may never see these insects. Bedbugs hide during the day, seeking holes and crevices in mattresses and beds, cracks between floor boards and even spaces between the pages of books kept close to the bed. These creatures can live six to 12 months without food and can survive in vacant rooms unless treated with pesticides or other control methods.
Garlic as Insecticide
Often touted as a natural insect killer or repellent, garlic is unlikely to work on bedbugs. Garlic extracts and oils sprayed on garden plants may discourage insects from consuming those plants, similar to the repellent effects of capsaicin, a substance found in hot peppers. However, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension, little evidence exists to show that garlic is effective as an insecticide. As bedbugs are resistant to many treatments that kill other pests, they are unlikely to be affected by garlic.
Homeowners can reduce, but not eliminate, bedbug populations using nonchemical methods. These include encasing mattresses and box springs in bedbug-proof plastic bags, vacuuming regularly and routinely laundering all sheets, pillows and clothing. Pest control agencies may also heat the infested area to between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours to kill most insects and eggs. Chilling objects to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for several days will also kill bedbugs inside them.
Most bedbug infestations require at least some chemical treatment. These insects resist many conventional pesticides, such as aerosol sprays, since they can hide in very small crevices for long periods of time. Effective pesticides include pyrethroids, diatomaceous earth and silica, insect growth regulators and organophosphates. According to the UNL Extension, bedbug infestations require repeated treatment. Single treatments leave bedbugs still alive in the bed and surrounding areas.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Less Toxic Insecticides; Karen Russ; August 2005
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension; Managing Bed Bugs; Barb Ogg; April 5, 2010
- University of California Integrate Pest Management; Bed Bugs; V.R. Lewis et al; May 2009
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Bed Bugs
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