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A natural treatment for bed bugs?

Don't let the bed bugs bite! Natural neem oil can prevent and treat infestations of these tiny blood-sucking insects.

“Sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite!” my mom used to croon to us before bedtime. Now the reality of widespread bed bug resurgence across the U.S. makes those words sound, well, not so sweet. Just the thought of the tiny blood-sucking Cimex lectularius makes my skin crawl!

Luckily, we have not had an infestation in our home. But every time I travel, I worry that we’ll bring back the elusive pests as stowaways. And with two young kids in our house, I worry even more about the toxic chemicals that might be required to rid us of that potential infestation.

So I was glad to learn recently that neem oil (from a tree native to India, used for thousands of years to fight pests and bacteria) can help prevent or treat infestations of bed bugs. Neem is safe enough to eat. In fact, I brush my teeth daily with toothpaste infused with neem oil, which helps fight plaque. Neem is also safe for pets and, according to the folks at Organix South, makers of Theraneem household and personal care products, neem can protect from over 200 kinds of insects—not just bed bugs—by interrupting their reproductive cycle.

Cosmetic chemist Autumn Blum recommends using neem as follows.

* Spray and wipe down well your bed, sheets, walls, bed boards and under your bed and all potentially dark crevices with a neem oil and essential oil-based spray.  If you have purchased a concentrated spray, you can dilute it by adding 1 to 4 oz of water and 1/2 teaspoon of soap to emulsify and then use in a spray bottle.

* For infestations, treat your home 3 times per day for the first 3 days, and then every other day 3 times per day, for a total of 18 days to assure that you have broken the lifecycle and eliminated all of the eggs.

* When checking into a hotel, lift a corner of the sheet and check the mattress; if you see little black specks, ask for a room change (to a different floor) or check into a different hotel. Upon arrival, lift up the mattress sheet and spray with a neem oil and essential oil-based spray.

* For extra protection, coat the interior of your suitcase with a neem oil and essential oil-based spray to prevent any stowaways. Let dry before packing.

* You may also want to use personal care products that contain neem. Neem oil soap with 20 percent neem oil offers good protection, and moisturizing with a neem-infused lotion or cream will keep the bugs away.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Jan 9, 2011

Good advice about the suitcase. I'm picking up some neem oil asap.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 12, 2011

where can u buy neem oil

on Jan 13, 2011

Neem oil is available at many natural products retailers--look in the personal care section. Or consider ordering online.

on Jan 19, 2011

The only truly effective means for eradicating bed bugs is to subject them to heat (> 130 degrees) for at least 2 hours. Neem oil is useful, but the best natural prevention is diatomaceous earth ("DE")...

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2012

diatomaceous earth works, so does 'Drione dust'
and is non-toxic as well.

on Nov 30, 2011

I will most definitely try that. In fact I tried everything I found in pest stores for bed bugs and nothing seems to work on a long shoot. I was going to try the service of some pest control companies as a last resort. I'll get rid of them eventually.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 5, 2012

I've had bed bugs a few times since living in Canada.. the professional chemical solutions were expensive, and the bed bugs usually come back after a while; it was very stressful; best success I've had is with spraying DE : simply dissolve in water and use a garden sprayer to spray around the bed.. sometimes I mix in essentials oils as well.. works well.. also vacuum the bed and around it regularly.. good luck!

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