Afternoon InquisitionScience

AI: Skepticism and Bed Bugs

I am excited to report that the FTC has begun to take action against some of the bogus products for sale claiming to protect you against bed bugs:

 “The Federal Trade Commission filed deceptive advertising charges against two marketers of remedies for bed bug infestations, who allegedly failed to back up overhyped claims that they could prevent and eliminate infestations using natural ingredients, such as cinnamon and cedar oil.”

I’ve seen ads for these products all over the place, and many more are offered in stores.   I hope that the FTC will expand their actions to some additional questionable bed bug products.  This comes on the heels of some new research that found that over-the-counter insecticide foggers are not effective for bed bug control.

Bed bugs are fertile ground for hucksters in the same way that many serious medical conditions invite exploitation of the ill. Both topics involve a lot of anxiety and stress, don’t have easy solutions, and people are willing to pay lots of money to find a solution.

It’s probably not a coincidence that I got the tip off on the FDA action from What’s the Harm, the site that monitors people physically harmed by bogus remedies.  In both unproven cancer treatments and over-use of insecticides to control bed bugs, people can make poor decisions based on bad or incorrect information.  Unfortunately, both also can create cases in which people sometimes end up dead.

"New Mutant Bed Bugs twice as hard to kill"There is an amazing amount of misinformation about bed bugs out there. I’ve called out both advertisers and media for some fairly spectacular Taxonomy FAILs.

This news photo, for example, has the caption “Many people cannot identify bed bugs.” Gee, you think that might be because your news article includes a photo of a flea, which isn’t even a close relative of a bed bug?

It’s a “mutant bed bug” alright. It’s mutated into a completely different species.


I’m trying to stay focused on the positive.

What good news have you heard lately about scam busting or general critical thinking in advertising? What small thing have you done this week to promote critical thinking in your corner of the internet?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. Bug_Girl,

    Wow, Mutant bed bugs, sounds like either a really bad horror movie or a really cheesy super hero cartoon!

  2. A silly slightly off topic’sh question. But one that drives me a bit nuts trying come up with a definitive answer. Are bed bugs “true bugs” or beetles or something else?

  3. HOW DARE YOU TRY TO COMBINE SKEPTICISM AND BED BUGS!!! Skepticism isn’t about bed bugs! It should only be about Bigfoot and chupacabras! You’re dividing the movement! Why do you hate people who don’t have bedbug infestations so much!?!?!?! You’re a BedBugBully!!


    Other than that, really interesting post!

  4. Well hopefully the government cracks down on bogus advertising claims in general, because a lot of the time, the bogus claims come from well known companies like the one below.

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