Unveiling the Truth: Do Moth Balls Really Kill Bed Bugs?

Ever found yourself in a battle with bed bugs and wondered if mothballs could be your secret weapon? You’re not alone. With bed bug infestations on the rise, it’s natural to seek out effective home remedies.

Mothballs, known for their bug repelling properties, often come to mind. But do they really work against these persistent pests? Let’s delve into the science behind mothballs and their impact on bed bugs.

Stay tuned as we unpack the truth, debunk myths, and provide you with the information you need to tackle your bed bug problem.

Key Takeaways

  • Mothballs, while known for their bug repelling properties and commonly used against moths, are not a reliable solution for bed bugs due to the high resistance levels displayed by common bed bug species.
  • Bed bugs are resilient pests that feed on blood, predominantly active at night and capable of surviving for months without feeding. They can easily migrate from neighboring areas or hitch a ride on personal belongings.
  • Using mothballs for bed bug control may pose significant health risks due to the toxicity of naphthalene, the active ingredient in mothballs. Overexposure to this chemical can lead to nausea, vomiting, confusion, and anemia.
  • Mothballs also pose environmental risks since naphthalene can contaminate soil and leach into groundwater. They are also flammable and at a risk of catching fire if not safely stored.
  • Safer and more effective alternatives for bed bug control include Integrated Pest Management strategies that combine monitoring, prevention, and careful pesticide use. Other methods include heat treatments, certified bed bug sprays, professional exterminators, and anti-bed bug devices.

The use of mothballs as a remedy to kill bed bugs is a common misconception. Dengarden addresses this myth by explaining the ineffectiveness of mothballs against bed bugs due to their different biological responses. For those seeking effective solutions, BedBug Insider recommends safer and more potent alternatives like diatomaceous earth or heat treatment. Furthermore, engaging with community experiences on platforms like Reddit can provide practical insights and personal success stories in managing bed bug infestations.

Understanding Bed Bugs

Before you can dive into solutions to tackle bed bugs, it’s vital to have a solid understanding of what you’re up against. Bed bugs are small nocturnal insects that feed on blood. They are tiny, roughly the size of an apple seed, and they can be mightily elusive.

The challenge begins with capturing them. Bed bugs are exceptional at hiding and are more active during the night when you’re likely asleep. They tend to strategically locate themselves in areas like mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. This positioning allows them to quickly access their blood meal – you.

You might be wondering, how do these pests end up in your home? There are two main avenues. They can either hitch a ride on your clothes, bags, or furniture. Or, they can migrate from a neighboring apartment or from another room within your house. Once they’ve made their way in, they can reproduce rapidly, making a small problem surge to a hefty infestation. Their resiliency is remarkable. Bed bugs can survive for several months without feeding and can withstand a wide range of temperatures.

One of the most vexing aspects of bed bugs is their resistance to many common pesticides. This resistance often prompts people to seek alternative strategies and home remedies, like mothballs. But are mothballs an effective method to squash your bed bug issue? That’s what we’ll discuss in the following sections. You’ll be equipped with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about your bed bug plague.

Exploring the Purpose of Mothballs

Having understood the nature of bed bugs, it’s now time to understand mothballs. What exactly are mothballs, and why are they used?

Mothballs are known for their distinct smell. They’re small and white, usually made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, two chemicals that are classified as pesticides. They’ve been around for a long time, dating back to the early 19th century.

However, the main reason people use mothballs is not related to bed bugs. The primary intention of these small, scented balls is to protect clothing from moth larvae. Moth larvae are known to feed on fabrics, particularly natural fibers like wool and silk, causing significant damage. By evaporating and releasing a particular gas, mothballs deter these pests, keeping your precious garments safe.

Over the years, people have tried using mothballs as a broader pest control solution, especially for their homes. This was possible due to both the chemical nature and the strong odor of mothballs, which was thought to be inconvenient for various creatures.

Your line of thought might be connecting to the same puzzle piece, and you might be considering, “If mothballs can repel moths, can they do the same for bed bugs?” Well, the science behind this idea is what the next section of our discussion would dive into. Few situations can be more complex, so remember never to make assumptions until you’ve sifted through the evidence.

Keep reading as we further investigate the efficacy of this age-old pesticide against the challenge of bed bug infestations.

Effectiveness of Mothballs Against Bed Bugs

Digging into the Science

Kindly remember, as we’ve covered earlier, mothballs are primarily designed to repel moths, not bed bugs. The main ingredient in mothballs, Naphthalene, works by changing the composition of the larvae’s cells, effectively destroying them. Bed bugs, as different species, don’t respond to these chemicals the same way moth larvae do.

Yet, some anecdotal evidence suggests mothballs might have some effect on bed bugs. As you ponder these pieces of information, it’s vital to take a deeper look into the scientific aspect of this claim, for clarity’s sake. A question that might arise is: how do mothballs affect bed bugs?

What the Research Says

Scientists have conducted experiments to understand exactly how effective mothballs are against bed bugs and it’s worth noting that various studies have produced varying results. Some studies indicate a reduction in bed bug activity, whereas others have found no notable effect. You might wonder why there’s such a discrepancy.

It boils down to the specific species of bed bugs tested. You need to understand that there are two main types of bed bugs: Cimex Hemipterus (Tropical Bed Bug) and Cimex Lectularius (Common Bed Bug). These species also possess different resistance levels to chemicals used in pest control, including Naphthalene.

Bed Bug TypeResistance Level to Naphthalene
Tropical Bed BugModerate
Common Bed BugHigh

Indeed, the Tropical Bed Bug has moderate resistance to Naphthalene, while the Common Bed Bug displays a high resistance level. This means mothballs might be less effective on the typical sorts of bed bugs you’d find in most homes.

Despite these findings and inconsistencies, scientific studies do not conclusively support mothballs as a reliable treatment for bed bugs. As you journey into the world of bed bug control, bearing in mind that not all methods will universally work is so important.

Risks and Safety Precautions

Even though we’ve demonstrated that mothballs might not be the ultimate solution for bed bugs, some of you might still consider using mothballs due to anecdotal evidence. Before you jump into any decision, let’s go over a few potential Risks and Safety Precautions.

Firstly, mothballs contain Naphthalene, an ingredient designed to kill moths – not bed bugs. Given that bed bugs are more resilient, the amount of Naphthalene you’d require to eliminate them could pose a significant toxic risk to humans and pets. Symptoms of overexposure to Naphthalene include nausea, vomiting, confusion, and in some severe cases, anemia.

Here are some safety precautions you need to take when using mothballs:

  • Never ingest mothballs.
  • Always handle mothballs with gloves.
  • Do not allow children or pets near mothballs.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in any area where mothballs are used.
  • Preferably, use mothballs in sealed containers.

Secondly, mothballs are flammable. If left near an open flame or in a hot environment, they pose a fire risk.

Last but not least, mothballs are dangerous to the environment. Naphthalene can contaminate soil and leach into groundwater if tossed in the garden or elsewhere in the environment.

Before reaching for mothballs, explore some other remedies for bed-bug infestations. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies like using heat treatments, employing professional exterminators, or using certified bed bug sprays could be safer and more effective alternatives.

Remember: weigh the risks of using a product against its effectiveness before making any decision. We’ve shown that mothballs have inherent risks and might not be the miracle cure for bed bugs you were hoping for. Always seek expert advice on pest control to ensure your safety and the wellbeing of those around you.

Alternative Bed Bug Control Methods

While it’s clear mothballs carry significant risks, you may wonder, what are the safer and more effective alternatives? The realm of pest control offers multiple solutions for active bed bug infestations. Here we’ll detail some viable alternatives.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) should top your list. Recommending a comprehensive, environmentally sensitive approach, IPM programs use current, scientific knowledge about pests’ life cycles and feeding habits. They combine common-sense practices to manage pests effectively, reducing risks to human health and the environment.

With IPM, you can:

  • Regularly monitor for pests and their signs
  • Seal cracks and openings to prevent bugs’ entry or movement
  • Reduce clutter that can harbor pests
  • Practice good sanitation to reduce pests’ food and water sources
  • Use pesticides cautiously and only when necessary

The utilization of heat treatments is another worth noting. Bed bugs can’t survive in extremely high temperatures. Professionals often use heaters to raise the temperature of a room above 120°F, a level lethal to bed bugs.

Hiring a professional exterminator is always an option when dealing with sizable infestations. By combining various methods like heat treatment, vacuuming, steam application, and pesticides, these professionals can nip the infestation in the bud while ensuring safety.

Use of certified bed bug sprays also garners recognition. Many of these sprays are eco-friendly, boasting pet-safe and child-safe properties. Always ensure to buy sprays with approval from bodies like the EPA or relevant regulatory authorities.

Finally, anti-bed bug mattress covers and bed bug interceptors are among the devices that can be employed for effective control.

Remember, whatever option you choose, a combination of methods often gives the best results. After all, it’s about securing your home as a safe, bed bug-free haven.


So you’ve learned that mothballs aren’t the magic bullet for bed bug infestations. Despite being a common household item, they pose significant health risks due to Naphthalene toxicity. You’ve also discovered safer, more effective alternatives like Integrated Pest Management, heat treatments, professional exterminators, and certified bed bug sprays. Remember, a multi-pronged approach usually yields the best results. By combining these methods, you’re well on your way to securing a bed bug-free home. Stay vigilant and proactive in your efforts, because the battle against bed bugs is often a marathon, not a sprint.

What are the risks associated with using mothballs for bed bugs?

Mothballs consist of Naphthalene which is a toxic substance. It can cause harm to humans and pets if inhaled, consumed, or in contact with the skin. With extended exposure, the risk of serious health effects, such as liver and kidney damage, increases.

What can be used instead of mothballs for treating bed bugs?

There are multiple safer and more effective alternatives; Integrated Pest Management strategies, heat treatments, hiring professional exterminators, or using certified bed bug sprays.

What are the benefits of using a heat treatment against bed bugs?

Heat treatments are effective in killing all stages of bed bugs, from eggs to adults, without using chemicals. It is an eco-friendly method that eliminates the bugs instantly and poses nearly no health risks.

Are professional exterminators an effective option for bed bug treatment?

Yes, professional exterminators have the required training, experience, and access to industrial-level treatments that can effectively eliminate bed bug infestations, offering potentially longer-lasting solutions than DIY methods.

What is the advantage of certified bed bug sprays?

Certified bed bug sprays are formulated specifically to eliminate bed bugs effectively and are generally safer than general insecticides. They are also often eco-friendly, posing minimal risks to humans and pets.

What combination of methods can I consider for bed bug treatment?

A combination of regular monitoring, sealing cracks and crevices in your home, heat treatments, professional extermination, and eco-friendly sprays can provide the most effective results in maintaining a bed bug-free home.