Research from North Carolina State University reveals that total release foggers, otherwise known as “bug bombs,” fail to kill cockroaches in indoor environments.

According to the study, the chemicals in bug bombs cannot reach areas in the home where cockroaches gather, namely inside cabinets and on the underside of surfaces. Consequently, the bug bombs leave behind an untold number of cockroaches as well as toxic residue on surfaces throughout the treated environment.

To make that determination, researchers tested four over-the-counter bug bombs with varying concentrations of insecticide active ingredients in five different apartment complexes with German cockroach (a common indoor household pest) infestations.

"All the fogger products contained pyrethroids, a class of fast-acting insecticides, and some contained piperonyl butoxide, a chemical that prevents roaches from metabolizing, or breaking down, the insecticide," said Coby Schal, Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State and senior author of the paper.

After estimating the number of cockroaches in each of the homes, researchers followed guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency and prepared the homes for the chemical release. However, in the weeks following treatment, the team discovered that cockroach populations did not decline.

Researchers continued their experiment by placing cockroaches, both lab-grown and those captured in the homes, into cages located on the floor and in upper cabinets of the home and exposed them to the bug bombs.

"The lab roaches, which are not hardy, had high mortality, as expected," said Zachary DeVries, a North Carolina State postdoctoral researcher and the lead author of the study. "The roaches captured in the homes and then brought back, however, had far lower mortality rates than you would expect from direct exposure to bug bombs, confirming the ineffectiveness of these products when used for German cockroach control."

Additionally, researchers looked at surfaces throughout the treated homes and determined that following bug bomb deployment, insecticide lingered on horizontal surfaces such as floors and countertops — areas where cockroaches are less likely to congregate, according to the research team.

The research is published in BMC Public Health.

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