A quick scan of the active ingredients on most insecticides will reveal a chemical which sounds like gibberish to most people...
If you're not in the pest control business (and let's be honest, most people aren't), this just seems like another bizarre chemical.
But what is it??
If it's being sprayed all over your property, you're probably wondering...is it safe?!
We're here to give you all the facts: what bifenthrin is, what it does, and even what the federal government thinks about it! Keep reading below to learn more!
What is Bifenthrin?
Bifenthrin is a chemical copycat of a pyrethrin, a naturally-occurring pesticide that comes from the chrysanthemum flower.
The family of synthetic, manmade pesticides from which bifenthrin hails is called the pyrethoid family. These pesticides all have names which end in "-thrin," so they're easily identifiable in the world of pest control.
How Does Bifenthrin Work?
Like its other relatives in the pyrethoid family, bifenthrin targets the central nervous system in an affected insect.
When an insect makes topical contact or ingests bifenthrin, the chemical works to over-stimulate the nerve cells, which then leads to convulsions and nervous system failure. Once the nervous system shuts down, the insect becomes paralyzed and dies.
Which Products Use Bifenthrin?
According to data collected from the National Pesticide Information Center, there are over 600 types of products which contain bifenthrin currently available for sale in the USA.
These are extremely tiny pebbles that you can use across your turf to combat snakes, nuisance animals, and larger types of crawling pests. They work well in tall grasses due to their rough consistency, and are used primarily as a bait to lure pests either away from a certain area (like your home) or toward a trap.
Generally, this is what professional exterminators use when they're treating your home for pests like termites, cockroaches, spiders, and other types of pests. These sprays are usually concentrated, mixed with water, and loaded into a spray nozzle to be administered through the yard or property.
One of the most popular bifenthrin-loaded sprays on the market, Talstar Pro, is regarded as one of the top pesticides due to its versatility and the wide variety of insects it can kill.
For a little help with safe application, check out the video below!
Aerosols combine the fighting power of a spray with the convenience of an aerosol canister. More often than not, these sprays will use a foaming agent to expand in cracks and fight pests in hard-to-reach areas like floorboards and door jambs.
When Should You Consider Using A Bifenthrin-Based Product?
Check out the ways bifenthrin fights against the following common pests.
Because of the fact that mosquitoes spend most of their lives in flight, it can be difficult to target them with a pest control product. However, bifenthrin is an excellent choice for killing mosquito larvae in moist soil, which is where some "floodwater" mosquitoes lay their eggs (Culex nigripalpus, Ochlerotatus taeniorhyncus, and Psorophora columbiae).
If you spray bifenthrin in moist soil and around the edges of the standing water where mosquitoes are likely to hang out, you're doing more than you know to wipe out countless mosquitoes before they can ever hatch.
Bifenthrin is recommended by several different outlets as a high-powered "bug blaster" against fleas, most commonly for use outdoors. Bifenthrin sits alongside its relatives in the pyrethoid family on this recommendation: permethrin and cypermethrin, two other pesticides which mimic the insect-killing power of the chrysanthemum flower.
Check out the video below for a quick tip on how to eliminate fleas outdoors with bifenthrin so that they're not making their way inside!
In addition to leaving behind a painful bite, ticks are vectors of Lyme disease, a deadly illness that's responsible for killing countless humans and animals each year.
Bifenthrin combats ticks by shutting down their nervous systems on contact, paralyzing them and killing them in a short amount of time. It's used by commercial exterminators, and available to the public for purchase in reduced strength as well.
Many professional pest control specialists and homeowners alike prefer to use bifenthrin products for ant control because of its spraying ability: it can be doused over a large area in a short amount of time.
When you're dealing with a huge colony of ants, this is a great benefit to have. You really want to wipe them all out as quickly and efficiently as possible, and bifenthrin offers that option.
When used for cockroaches, bifenthrin has a residual staying power. This means that it will kill the cockroaches in an area by overloading their nervous systems, then stay present for a period of time and continue to work in the event that other cockroaches appear in the area and make contact.
Believe it or not, but bifenthrin is actually one of the chemicals that professional termite exterminators use when they come out to treat your home for a termite infestation. While we don't recommend skipping the professional treatment (especially for a pest as detrimental as termites), we can tell you that more often than not, this is probably what's being sprayed on your property.
Is Bifenthrin Dangerous To Humans?
When used as directed, bifenthrin is safe for human use.
However, sometimes, mistakes are made. If an accident occurs and you aren't properly protected, here's how an exposure to bifenthrin can affect you.
General Side Effects
When bifenthrin makes accidental contact with the skin, the following symptoms can occur:
- paresthesia (a pins-and-needles sensation)
- itching at the site of exposure
- burning at the site of exposure
- numbness at the site of exposure
After an accidental ingestion, these symptoms can present themselves:
- sore throat
- abdominal pain
- ulcers in the mouth
- oral secretions
For Pregnant Women
There's no conclusive data on how bifenthrin affects a human pregnancy, but data from the National Pesticide Information Center on rat and rabbit pregnancies have shown that bifenthrin exposure caused no birth defects.
However, given the side effects listed above, we recommend that all expectant mothers check with a doctor before using bifenthrin during pregnancy.
For Babies and Toddlers
The National Pesticide Information Center reports that children may be more vulnerable to pesticides than adults, but assert that bifenthrin is no more harmful to small kids than it is to adults.
However, the March of Dimes stresses that many pesticides can hinder development in your baby, which can lead to developmental issues and behavioral problems.
Based on this information, we recommend to check with your baby's pediatrician before using bifenthrin in the home, just to be on the safe side.
Is Bifenthrin Dangerous To Cats?
According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), cats have an extra sensitivity to pyrethoid insecticides.
This is due to a certain liver enzyme that they lack, which means that they're not able to break down the chemical compounds of these insecticides like dogs and humans can.
These chemicals ARE dangerous to cats, and should be avoided in households where cats are kept.
If you notice any of the following symptoms of toxicity, seek veterinary care for your cat immediately:
- uncoordinated walking
- twitching or tremors
- trouble breathing or respiratory distress
- hyperthermia or hypothermia
Is Bifenthrin Dangerous To Dogs?
In joint studies conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), dogs fed capsules containing bifenthrin were shown to exhibit adverse side effects over a 90 day period.
Bifenthrin is harmful to dogs, although not as toxic as to cats.
The dogs in the FAO/WHO study exhibited the following symptoms after three months of eating bifenthrin capsules:
- pupil dilation
- rapid eye movement
- increased tear production
- rapid panting
What Does The Government Think About Bifenthrin?
So, is bifenthrin regulated by the government? What do the federal branches think of this pesticide??
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA considers bifenthrin a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP), and has listed it as such. This means that for everyday use by the general public, its concentrations must be lowered from what's sold to certified, professional pest control companies.
Based on how bifenthrin affects mice, the EPA has classified bifenthrin as a possible human carcinogen when used incorrectly.
Center for Disease Control
The CDC recommends bifenthrin in the fight against mosquitoes, particularly when combatting life-threatening disease like Zika, West Nile, and malaria.
Not only does this recommendation ring true for the continental United States, but the CDC keeps its endorsement for warmer climates like Puerto Rico as well.
Bifenthrin Vs Other Stuff
What separates bifenthrin from some of these other pesticides floating around the market? Take a look into the section below for a better understanding of the comparison between them.
Bifenthrin vs Fipronil
Both of these insecticides kill fleas and ticks, but here's a big difference: one hurts cats, and one doesn't!
Fipronil, the active ingredient in many top flea and tick medications (like Frontline Plus) can be used on a cat's skin without hurting the cat whatsoever.
Bifenthrin, as we've found, can cause serious damage to your feline...even death!
Read Also: What is fipronil and is it safe?
Bifenthrin vs Permethrin
These two pesticides hail from the same family—the pyrethoid family, as indicated by their "-thrin" suffixes—but they work to target different areas.
For instance, permethrin binds especially well to fabrics, and is thus normally used to treat clothing and gear like tents and mosquito nets.
Bifenthrin, on the other hand, is usually used to spray lawns and turfs for insects hiding therein.
Bifenthrin vs Deltamethrin
These two products are very similiar (and come from the same family of insecticides, as you can tell by the "-thrin" suffix), but there is a slight difference in what they leave behind.
Bifenthrin is mild toward garden plants and odorless, whereas deltamethrin is a little bit more harsh and can give off a slight smell in the garden.
Bifenthrin vs Termidor
Termidor is a name-brand termiticide (otherwise known as a termite killer) with the active ingredient fipronil.
We just mentioned the main differences between bifenthrin and fipronil for fleas and ticks, but as far as termites go, bifenthrin acts as more of a repellent and barrier than a termite killer.
Termidor, on the other hand, is a non-repellent. This chemical is used to wipe out termites and kill them with a slow-acting poison that takes out the whole colony.
Final Thoughts on Bifenthrin
When used properly, bifenthrin can be a powerful tool to eliminate pests outside your home, around your garden, and even in low-traffic areas inside your house like the basement or the attic.
It's worth noting that though this pesticide is mainly safe when used as directed, serious consequences can occur if the user doesn't follow instructions. Always read the product label and never over-mix. In addition, be sure to wear protective gear at all points during the application process. Safety should be your top priority.
Other Pest Control Chemical Guides
Curious about other chemicals? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.