Is Harris bed bug killer toxic?

Many people want the greener option these days – even when choosing bug killers. There are loads of bed bug sprays and powders proudly labelled “non-toxic,” such as the line of products from Harris. Why would a bed bug killer announce that it isn't toxic? Don't you want a certain amount of toxicity in a product that's supposed to kill bed bugs?

Is Harris Bed Bug Killer Toxic To People and Pets?

Harris bed bug killer is non-toxic in the sense that storing it in a home will not cause people or pets in that home to get sick, unlike many other insecticides. Many people also do not get sick from the smell, unlike many other pesticides. It will sicken and kill bed bugs.

What Does "Toxic" Really Mean?

Words are living things in the sense that their meaning and usage keeps evolving. Toxic is one such word. It's originally from the Greek word “toxikon” (wouldn't that be a great name for a heavy metal band?) which meant, “poison put on arrowheads.” Since arrows are not used very much in modern society, the meaning of “toxic” shifted to meaning anything that is poisonous.

That's the definition of “toxic.” It's poisonous. Modern slang substitutes the word “toxic” for “deadly.” Not all poisonous substances make you dead – some just make you wish you were dead. In the last couple decades with the rise of eco-friendliness, advertising has changed the meaning of “toxic” yet again. Now it refers to substances that kill at a distance and over prolonged exposure, like asbestos or nuclear waste.

Is Harris Bed Bug Killer Perfectly Safe?

No non-edible item is perfectly safe. We consider shampoo to be non-toxic, but you do not want to chug a whole bottle. That's a great way to wind up in the emergency room. Remember that even drinking water can kill you – if you drink an absurd amount, as what happened in an unfortunate 2007 radio contest where the person who drank the most water won a video game system. In this case, the winner didn't win a Wii but a one-way trip to the morgue.

However, in comparison to many other insecticides, the Harris line of non-toxic bed bug killers is safe to keep in your home for months. It does not cause any health problems to anyone living in the home where the Harris products are used or stored. Although lethal for bed bugs, it's no more dangerous than a bottle of shampoo.

What Are The Ingredients?

The ingredient that kills bed bugs is called deltamethrin. This is a synthetic (man-made) insecticide that entered our shop shelves in 1978. It mimics chemicals called pyrethrins that kill bugs in chrysanthemum flowers. It only kills bed bugs by being in prolonged contact with them. 

This means they don't just drop dead after getting sprayed. They need this stuff on them for many minutes or hours before they drop dead. Deltamethrin kills by screwing up a bed bug's nervous system to the point where it dies.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, the reasons why deltamethrin kill bed bugs and not people or most pets is because:

  • The smaller the body, the easier it is to shut down the nervous system.
  • Cold-blooded critters die easier from deltamethrin than warm-blooded ones like people and furry, warm-blooded pets.
  • If it gets on your skin, then you can wash it off and the effects are diminished. Bugs cannot wash themselves off as effectively as people can with soap and water.

Be Sensible When Using Any Non-Toxic Insecticide

You still need to use some precautions when using any non-toxic insecticide product such as sprays, powders, traps or interceptors. Read all of the directions before using. Wear disposable gloves if possible and thoroughly wash your hands after using it. If you have respiratory problems or asthma, put on a face mask before using.

Here are some other practical tips about using any non-toxic bed bug killers:

Some products like Harris Bed Bug Killer (see at Amazon) claim that there is no smell. However, some people are able to detect an odor. If you are extremely sensitive to strange odors, such as some people with migraines are, then use only on a tiny area and wait a day to see how you react before drenching the house with it.

  • Many non-toxic insecticides claim that they do not leave stains on fabrics. This may not be true for your particular bed bug infested item. Spray a tiny test patch on the underside or a less obvious area and wait 24 hours to see if a stain develops.
  • Store in a cool, dry place out of the reach of curious kid hands or pet mouths.
  • Have any babies in your home? Then you better not use any product with deltamethrin. The National Pesticide Information Center warns that babies are extremely sensitive to deltamethrin.
  • Bed bugs get everywhere people go. After testing the non-toxic insecticide and finding it doesn't get you sick or stain your fabrics, you'll need to treat all the rooms in your home and your vehicles. Prepare to put in a lot of time and elbow grease to clean up, get on your hands and knees to find where bed bugs hide and get dirty.

A Word of Warning for Pet Owners and Beekeepers

Not everyone has mammals or birds as pets. Many people enjoy the company of their cold-blooded pets such as fish, reptiles, amphibians, tarantulas and scorpions. These creatures are more prone to sickening and dying from exposure to deltamethrin than warm-blooded pets. Keep any product like Harris Bed Bug Killer containing deltamethrin from entering aquariums or terrariums.

Deltamethrin is also deadly to honeybees. NEVER try to get rid of bee mites or other honeybee pests with anything containing deltamethrin or use pesticides for bed bugs around hives or equipment that contacts hives. The good news is that bed bugs are not dangerous to bees as bees do not produce the delicious red blood that bed bugs love so much.

Will Harris Bed Bug Killer Work?

Harris Bed Bug Killer is just like any other product. Some people swear by it. Some people swear at it. Here is a comprehensive review of the most popular products in the Harris line, including the Harris Bed Bug Killer spray. It works when you can get the spray to connect with the bed bugs.

And herein lies the problem. If there was an Extreme Hiding event in the Olympics, bed bugs would win the gold medal every stinking time. You need to find ALL the bed bugs hiding places in order to coat them with the spray. Good luck with that. This is why most people need to hire an exterminator to get rid of bed bugs – they can find where the critters hide.

Will Harris Bed Bug Killer Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

No, sorry. Deltamethrin works on adult and baby bed bugs but not the eggs. You need to retreat because it's only then you can kill the newly-hatched bed bugs. This is a problem that even professional exterminators face. If and when you hire an exterminator for your bed bug problem, you will need at least two treatments in order to make sure all the bed bugs get hit and you stop getting bit.

Do not despair. Bed bug eggs are not indestructible. There are other ways to kill them, or at least get them out of your home. These include:

  • Vacuuming: Just be sure to empty the bag or cannister immediately after vacuuming.
  • Extreme heat: Bed bug eggs need to be in temperatures over 118 degrees F for at least ninety minutes to perish.
  • Laundry: Set your washer and dryer as hot as possible and place in anything that can survive the laundering process. This may not kill 100 percent of the eggs in your stuff but will at least kill some.

Other Non-Toxic Ways to Kill Bed Bugs

Harris Bed Bug Killer is just one non-toxic way to kill bed bugs. Fortunately, there are many other ways. You may need to use a combination of ways in order to get rid of the bed bugs in your life. Keep in mind that you still may have to hire an exterminator depending on how bad your infestation is.

  • Doing lots of laundry: Not just clothes, but bedding, drapes, curtains, small cushions, soft-sided luggage, stuffed animals and any shoes that can survive a trip through the washer and drier. Place all clean items in resealable plastic bags so new bed bugs can't infest your nice, cleaned, de-bugged stuff.
  • Your freezer: Place small items that cannot go through the laundry and that can survive getting wet in a resealable plastic bag and keep in the freezer for at least four days.
  • Diatomeaceous Earth (DE): This is a powder available over the counter in many products, including one from Harris. Place this anywhere bed bugs hide.
  • Cleaning up the junk and clutter in your home: This does not kill bed bugs but gives them fewer places to hide and lay eggs, so it makes it easier to find them and apply sprays or powders on them.
  • Extreme heat: This was mentioned in the section on killing bed bug eggs, but some exterminators offer whole-house treatments instead of pesticides.

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