Insect Repellent for Bed Bug Prevention

Will insect repellent work for bed bugs?

Frequent travelers commonly ask whether insect repellent will work for bed bug prevention. Travelers know that use of insect repellents such as DEET can repel insects such as mosquitoes. DEET has been used for years and is recommended by the federal government for repelling many insects.
There is no evidence that any current insect repellents currently marketed will repel bed bugs. A special state task force in Ohio recently reported to the legislature and the governor that insect repellents do not work. The group pointed out that frustrated parents had used repellents on the children in excessive levels without accomplishing to deter bed bugs bites.

Most repellents such as DEET are effective on flying insects such as mosquitoes. While the mosquito is attracted to the odor of humans as a potential blood meal, DEET interrupts the senses of the mosquitoes causing them not to land to bite the victim. DEET does not work to repel most crawling insects such as ants or roaches and the same is true for bed bugs.

For a topical insect repellent such as DEET to work, it must be applied to the skin and must be used against insects susceptible to DEET such as flying biting insects. Even if insect repellents worked for bed bug control, instructions prohibit covering the entire body with repellents creating a limitation.

It is possible that in the future repellents will be developed for use against bed bugs. Until that time, it is best to avoid using any insect repellent against bed bugs. Some homemade repellent recipes are available on the internet, but they are ineffective. Untested repellents can also be dangerous if applied on the skin, even if they are made from naturally occurring ingredients such as herbal mixtures.

Ultrasonic devices which give off sound waves also do not repel insects including bed bugs.