How Does Bug Spray Work? And Why Bother Using It.
It’s almost an instinct when you head outside by yourself or with the family during the warmer months: did you pack or bring the bug spray? This invention has been around for decades, so how does bug spray work? There’s two types of sprays this article will look at: insecticides and repellents. Those terms cover sprays that you put on yourself, or sprays you use around the house or in your garden. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says insecticides are designed to kill insects on the spot or reduce their numbers over time. The sprays can do this by disrupting a bug’s ability to reproduce. Then on the other side for repellents; those work by making us less attractive to bugs, keeping them away from us and our loved ones.
Repellents Versus Pesticides
Most of the bug sprays we use on ourselves act as repellents – and they contain chemicals or compounds that are regulated by the EPA. Those include: catnip oil, oil of citronella, DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), IR3535 (3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid), picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and 2-undecanone. There are a lot of fancy terms there, but the big ones encompass the most products available to consumers.
Experts say DEET is the most common, with more than 500 EPA-registered bug repellents listing DEET as their active ingredient. Off, probably the most popular brand of personal bug spray, uses DEET. Experts say when we use bug sprays onto our skin or clothing, it works by interfering with insects’ odor receptors, making it difficult for them to smell us and see us.
While shopping for your own personal bug spray, you may end up finding some products that are labeled: “EPA-approved”. These products contain ingredients like cedar oil, geranium oil, peppermint oil or citronella oil. These are all classified as “minimum risk” pesticides – however; these products have not been tested by the EPA to see if they are effective for keeping pests off of you. The EPA solely tests these products for safety. For example, citronella oil naturally comes from the citronella plant, however it is still label as a pesticide, so you can see how the term can mean everything from plants with anti-pest properties as well as heavy duty crop pesticides meant to rid entire fields of pest populations.
So what about for home defense? When you’ve got roaches, ants, bees, wasps – it’s time to bring out the big guns: insecticides. Most bug sprays used in the home have insecticides in the “Pyrethroid” family. Experts say pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the natural oils found in some flowers – affecting an insect’s central and peripheral nervous systems on contact. This, in turn, causes tremors, paralysis and a quick death for those home predators. Something to keep in mind: pyrethroids are also effective against beneficial bugs like bees and butterflies, so be careful when spraying so you don’t accidentally make your home or garden worse off. Another factor to consider: experts say pyrethroids are also highly toxic to fish.
Read Your Labels!
Pyrethroids are the active ingredients in many wasp, hornet, ant and roach sprays. Experts say these types of sprays need to work over an extended time to effectively kill insects outside their nests. These sprays usually contain directions that say you should apply these sprays along walls, doorways and insect trails. When the bugs get near the sprayed areas, they are killed when they ingest or crawl over the spray residue.
When you’ve got a pest problem, and you’re not sure what spray to buy; always look at the ingredients and classification of the spray before you bring them home. Whether they are safe for you to spray on yourself or others, or whether they’re used for home defense, each type of bug spray is best for different situations and locations. Always do your homework to see whether you or your home are okay dealing with these bug sprays, and that they are approved by the EPA in some capacity.