Cedar bedding is bedding made from small chips of cedar wood. It is used in pet bedding and litter for dogs, cats and hamsters to control odor and repel pests, such as mites and fleas. Cedar that is set out as a decorative bedding in gardens can also aid in a pest control. It is particularly helpful in repelling infestations that include ants, slugs and even scorpions. Cedar bedding is widely used in desert areas such as Arizona, where scorpion infestations can be a serious problem.
Cedar bedding, also known as cedar mulch or cedar chips, contains plicatic acid, the active ingredient in cedar oil. According to a Searchdogsne.org article entitled: “Respiratory Toxicity of Cedar and Pine Wood” by Jeff Johnston, plicatic acid is toxic to many pests. Exposure to plicatic acid shuts down the respiratory system, particularly in insects and arthropods. The western red cedar, or Thuja plicata, is often used in cedar bedding because it has high levels of plicatic acid. Other cedar bedding comes from eastern white cedar and Japanese cedar.
Scorpions are not insects, according to a Desert USA website on scorpions. They are eight-legged, nocturnal arthropods, in the same family as mites, ticks and spiders. Like some spiders, most scorpions are venomous. Scorpions carry their poison sting in their tail, according to a University of Arizona article entitled “Scorpions” by Dawn H. Gouge, Kirk A. Smith, Carl Olson and Paul Baker. The way in which scorpions breathe is what makes them vulnerable to pesticides that affect the respiratory system, such as permethrin and the plicatic acid in cedar bedding.
Scorpions breathe through an outer framework of what are called spiracles. Also known as “book lungs,” these are open slits in the body which allow air into the scorpion's body, according to the Desert USA website. These slits are adversely affected by contact with the plicatic acid in cedar bedding. According to a University of Kentucky Entomology website on exotic bug care, including the Madagascar Roach and the Emperor Scorpion, cedar chips should never be used in the pet's container due to respiratory toxicity.
There are as many as 60 different species of scorpion in Arizona, according to the University of Arizona article on scorpions. While most scorpions live and hunt alone, numbers can increase enough to cause problems, particularly with pets that are let out at night. Controlling brushwood, trash and vegetation and making sure your home is secure are all helpful in controlling scorpions, according to the article. Pesticides and cedar mulch in plant beds can also be used outside.
Chemical pesticides used to get rid of scorpions, such as permethrin, can pose dangers to children, pets and plant life, according to the University of Arizona website. While cedar bedding is considered a more environmentally friendly way to control scorpions, it also should be used with caution. Over-exposure to plicatic acid can affect human and pet respiratory systems. This can trigger rhinitis and asthma problems over time, according to the Jeff Johnston article on the respiratory effects of cedar.