• 08.06.13

Got Bed Bugs? Use This New, Cheaper, More Effective, DIY, Low-Cost Trap To Find Out

If you suspect you might be unlucky enough to have the critters, you can buy an expensive test, or you can follow these instructions to make one yourself that both costs less and works better.

What has six legs, lives on blood, and strikes fear into the hearts of mattress-owners everywhere? According to the National Pest Management Association, bed bug infestations peak during the summer months, and some 99.6% of exterminators have seen at least one in the past year. They’re also expensive as hell, and notoriously difficult to treat, let alone detect.


For those of you who cross the street to avoid old couches propped up against a fire hydrant, here’s something for you: A new bed bug trap described in a Rutgers University study and published in the Journal of Economic Entomology shows that it’s fairly simple to set up a more effective and cheaper bed bug monitor than what’s currently on the market–and you can likely get most of the ingredients from your local drug store.

Changlu Wang, an entomologist at Rutgers University and assistant extension specialist, found a set-up proven more than twice as effective as bed bug detection kits currently on the market. His team needed to create a source of carbon dioxide, which bed bugs are attracted to, so they used a combination of sugar, yeast, and water to generate the gas. (Other bed bug detection tools, Wang explained, often use expensive carbon dioxide cylinders, or dry ice—which is effective, but dangerous to touch.) With that mixture placed in a retrofitted dog bowl, Wang’s team also lined the trap with black surgical tape to make the trap more attractive to the bugs and easier to climb.

“Bed bugs are very, very hungry. Once you enter the room, you breathe CO2, and within a few minutes the bed bugs become active and look for you,” Wang explains. “They just follow the CO2 concentrations until they locate you. The CO2 released from yeast is identical–the only difference is humans release chemical odors,” he said.

The dog bowl trap, they learned, was 2.8 times more effective than ClimbUp, a $35 competitor.

Wang added that cost was important when considering that the elderly often experience bed bug infestations, but are less sensitive to the bites and less likely to report them. He’s also found significant infestations in public housing. “Last night, we did a survey in a housing complex. We found more than 150 apartments with bedbugs. Some places have very high levels of infestations, people just don’t realize they’re there,” he said.

About the author

Sydney Brownstone is a Seattle-based former staff writer at Co.Exist. She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with windows that don’t quite open, and covers environment, health, and data.