Addressing Bed Bug Infestations: Why Mothballs Aren’t Your Solution

Ever found yourself in a battle with bed bugs? You’re not alone. Many have reached for a box of mothballs, hoping it’s the silver bullet to their problem. But do mothballs really kill bed bugs? That’s the million-dollar question we’re tackling today.

Mothballs have been used for years to keep moths away from clothes. But their effectiveness against bed bugs isn’t as well-known. You’ve probably heard conflicting opinions, leaving you more confused than ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Bed bugs, belonging to the Cimicidae family, are tiny, nocturnal insects that can survive weeks without feeding, thus making their extermination especially challenging.
  • Mothballs, traditionally made from naphthalene but have now shifted to paradichlorobenzene, function by releasing a toxic vapor that eradicates pests. However, this method is effective mostly in confined, airtight spaces.
  • The effectiveness of mothballs against bed bugs is questionable. While they have shown resistance to naphthalene, the impact of paradichlorobenzene is still under research.
  • Mothballs, traditional or modern, may pose health risks such as anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, and kidney damage. Their usage also carries legal and environmental implications.
  • Alternative bed bug control methods such as professional pest control services, heat treatment, regular vacuuming, and approved pesticides may offer safer and more efficient solutions.
  • The decision to use mothballs or alternative methods for bed bug control should balance both safety and effectiveness.

Mothballs are commonly misconceived as a remedy for bed bugs, however, they are largely ineffective against these pests. Business Insider discusses the ineffectiveness of mothballs in dealing with bed bugs, as they do not address infestation at its source. For proven methods, Terminix suggests more reliable alternatives such as heat treatment and professional pesticides. Additionally, Puffy Mattress elaborates on why certain common myths, like mothballs for bed bugs, persist despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

Understanding Bed Bugs

To effectively tackle the issue of bed bugs, it’s crucial you understand these perplexing pests. Foremost, bed bugs belong to the Cimicidae family. These are tiny, flightless insects, whose survival largely depends on consuming human or animal blood. The most widespread species is Cimex lectularius, which is especially well adapted to human environments.

These bugs are nocturnal creatures, making their feeding habits predominantly active during the dark hours. They’re crafty and know how to evade detection. You’ll rarely see a bed bug during the day as they often hide amid mattress seams, bed frames, or any cracks and crevices they find.

Bed bugs can survive weeks, even months, without feeding, adding to the resilience of their kind. This trait makes them notoriously difficult to eradicate, as they can silently lurk and rebound once favorable conditions return.

Bed Bug Life Cycle

Recognizing a bed bug’s life cycle will aid you further in understanding their durability. Bed bugs have six life stages, starting from an egg that hatches into a nymph. The nymphs then go through five growth periods, each requiring a full blood meal before shedding their exoskeleton and transitioning into the next stage. The final transformation is the adult stage.

This life cycle takes anywhere from five weeks to four months, heavily dependent on conditions like temperature and availability of food. Additionally, an adult female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime, each about the size of a speck of dust.

Life StagesDuration
Egg to Nymph6-10 days
Nymph to Adult5 weeks to 4 months

This knowledge should equip you with better preparation when dealing with bed bugs. Be aware that completely solving a bed bug infestation often requires consistent, thorough treatment. Mothballs may be part of your plan to rid bed bugs—but will they work? We’ll delve into this question in the upcoming sections of the article.

What Are Mothballs?

Mothballs are small, white orbs frequently used as a form of pest control. Traditionally, they’re made from a substance called naphthalene. This high-volatile compound is a potent insecticide that’s also renowned for its distinctive, pungent smell.

However, over time, many manufacturers have switched from naphthalene to a less volatile compound, paradichlorobenzene. Not only is paradichlorobenzene safer for humans and pets, but it also poses less of a fire risk. Despite this change, most people still refer to the newer, paradichlorobenzene-based products as ‘mothballs’.

Typically placed in storage, mothballs slowly vaporize into a gas, creating an environment inhospitable for many pests. Their principal purpose is to protect clothing, mainly wool, from moths and other fabric-boring insects during storage.

It’s essential to understand that the effectiveness of these little orbs hinges on their enclosed environment usage. Certainly, mothballs need a confined, airtight space to create a sufficiently high vapor concentration to act as an effective pesticide. In an open, well-ventilated area, the gas dissipates too quickly to be of any real use against pests.

While you’re probably more familiar with the conventional use of mothballs, there’s been recent speculation about their effectiveness against bed bugs. Could these pests resilient to so many other forms of pest control be eradicated using mothballs? To answer this question, we’ll delve into the effect of mothballs on bed bugs in the upcoming sections.

Effectiveness of Mothballs Against Bed Bugs

Moving forward with our discussion, let’s delve into the crux of the matter – can mothballs actually be used to exterminate bed bugs? Experts in pest control have various suggestions about this topic. Your curiosity about the effectiveness of mothballs against bed bugs isn’t just a whim. It’s a burning question for many households struggling with infestations.

Mothballs, as we’ve reviewed earlier, function by releasing a vapor which, in an enclosed space, can kill off moths, their larvae, and other fabric-boring pests. These vapors are toxic, and because of that, they can affect a range of insects. But the main point you need to remember is how these vapors work best – in confined, airtight spaces.

So here comes the kicker. Bed bugs aren’t pests that are confined to small, sealed areas like your wool sweaters or fur stoles. They are crafty survivalists that live in the cracks and crevices of your beds, furniture, wall gaps, and more. They can scatter across rooms, hiding within your living spaces where the vapors cannot reach them effectively.

According to research, bed bugs have proven to be resistant to naphthalene, the active ingredient in traditional mothballs. With this in mind, let’s approach the issue of paradichlorobenzene, found in modern mothballs, and whether it’s any more successful in our fight against the bed bugs.

  • Traditional mothballs (active ingredient: naphthalene): ineffective against bed bugs
  • Modern mothballs (active ingredient: paradichlorobenzene): TBD
Active Ingredient in MothballsEfficacy Against Bed Bugs

Risks and Hazards of Using Mothballs for Bed Bugs

While seeking the answer to whether mothballs can eradicate bed bugs, it’s critical to also consider the potential risks and hazards associated with using mothballs. Understanding these risks can influence your decision when choosing the ideal method for bug elimination.

Mothballs are chemically potent, designed to keep pests away. However, their chemicals can be hazardous to humans and pets. For instance, naphthalene, a common chemical in traditional mothballs, can damage or destroy red blood cells if you’re exposed to it over a lengthy period. This can potentially lead to hemolytic anemia. Moreover, direct exposure could lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Similarly, modern mothballs that contain paradichlorobenzene also carry risks. Long-term exposure is associated with effects like liver and kidney damage and infrequent cases of skin irritation.

Here’s a table on potential health risk from mothballs chemicals:

ChemicalPotential Health Risks
NaphthaleneHemolytic anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
ParadichlorobenzeneLiver damage, kidney damage, skin irritation

It’s additionally worth noting that in many regions, it’s illegal to use mothballs in ways not specified on the product label. Failure to adhere creates legal risks, in addition to health concerns.

Mothballs also present environmental concerns. The chemicals they release can contaminate soil and, over time, affect wildlife. In a home setting, they can ruin the quality of indoor air.

Remember, efficient bed bug control isn’t about deploying the harshest chemicals. It’s about integrating a strategy: reducing clutter, vacuuming regularly, and applying heat treatments can be more effective.
With clear awareness of the risks versus the questionable effectiveness, it’s easier to make informed decisions about bed bug control. But this doesn’t represent the full picture. To understand better, let’s take a look at some more effective and safe alternatives compared to mothballs.

Alternative Bed Bug Control Methods

With the risks linked to mothballs spelled out, you may be asking: What are other safer, more efficient methods to eliminate bed bugs?

First on the list is leveraging professional pest control services. Experts in the field are armed with extensive knowledge and tools to manage these pests. Besides, they employ eco-friendly tactics that aren’t harmful to you or the environment.

If you’re in for a DIY, try heat treatment. Bed bugs, in all their life stages, can’t withstand temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So whether it’s a steamer on your infested furniture or hot spin in the laundry for your clothes and bedding, this method kills bed bugs instantly. Yet, the exact temperature and duration should be accurately followed to ensure 100% extermination.

Another alternative you could explore is vacuuming. Regular and thorough vacuuming of your living space, particularly hard-to-reach corners and holes, can go a long way in halting an infestation. This method not only removes bed bugs from surface areas but their eggs as well. However, it’s vital to immediately dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed container outdoors to prevent escaped bugs from regrouping.

For persistent infestations, you might consider using carefully selected pesticides. Products with a seal of approval or recommendation from recognized health and environmental bodies should be your go-to. Such products contain active ingredients efficient in killing bed bugs without posing high risks to your health or the environment.

Professional ServicesExperts use eco-friendly strategies
Heat TreatmentKills bugs instantly above 120 Fahrenheit
VacuumingRemoves bed bugs and their eggs
Approved PesticidesKills without posing high health/environmental risks

Remember: Arming yourself with accurate knowledge and striking a balance between your safety and effective bed bug control is important.


So, you’ve learned that mothballs aren’t the best solution for bed bugs. They’re not only ineffective but can also pose health risks. Instead, consider safer, more effective methods. Professional pest control services, heat treatments, thorough vacuuming, and approved pesticides are all viable options to combat these pesky critters. Remember, the key to successful bed bug management is accurate knowledge and a balanced approach. Don’t resort to harmful chemicals, choose eco-friendly tactics. With the right strategy, you can rid your home of bed bugs and keep your environment safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some alternatives for bed bug control?

Professional pest control services, heat treatment above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, thorough vacuuming, and approved pesticides are all alternatives to mothballs for bed bug control. These methods are both effective and safer for your health and environment.

Why is it not recommended to use mothballs for bed bug control?

Mothballs contain harmful chemicals that can adversely affect human health and the environment. Moreover, they are not proven to be particularly effective against bed bug infestations.

Are professional pest control services effective against bed bugs?

Yes, professional pest control services provide effective treatment for bed bugs, often using eco-friendly tactics to avoid harm to your health and the environment.

How does heat treatment kill the bed bugs?

Heat treatment above 120 degrees Fahrenheit kills bed bugs instantly by disrupting their internal structures and biological processes.

What is the role of vacuuming in bed bug control?

Thorough vacuuming helps physically remove bed bugs and their eggs from hiding places, contributing to overall control efforts.

Are all pesticides harmful for bed bug control?

No, certain pesticides are approved by health and environmental bodies for safer use. The article advises carefully selecting such products to manage bed bug infestations effectively and safely.