“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.