How to Catch and Trap Bed Bugs
Catching and trapping bed bugs is crucial to confirming a bed bug infestation.
The first step in identifying a bed bug infestation is to look for signs of bed bugs. But the most important thing is to find live bed bugs. This isn't as easy as you might think. Bed bugs are small, making them hard to spot. And their tiny size makes gives them the ability to hide in locations that make detection near impossible. This can be a real problem, especially if you are in a situation where you need to prove a bed bug infestation in order to get a legally obliged party like a property manager or landlord to take action.
Let's say you've inspected your home and you've seen what appear to be fecal stains on your mattress but there are no other signs of bed bugs. Chances are you don't have a problem. But maybe you have been waking up with bites on exposed area of your skin and are suspicious. At this point, you really need to find a bed bug to make a positive identification.
Another situation that can present a problem is hotels. Hotel rooms are cleaned regularly. It is possible that a hotel room could appear to be bed bug free but in fact have an infestation. In this situation, it's hard to feel 100% safe.
In both of these situations, the best thing you can do for peace of mind is to try to catch a live bed bug.
There are two main approaches to trapping bed bugs: passive and active. Passive methods involve catching bed bugs as they try to move from outside the bed into the bed. It is also known as intercepting. Methods that lure bed bugs into a trap are referred to as active methods. The devices used to trap bed bugs are called monitors.
Passive Bed Bug Monitors
Passive monitors generally work best if you have a bed with separate legs like this one:
There are two things that make this approach an easy choice: it's simple and it's cheap.
Bed Bug Vaseline Trick
The bed bug vaseline trick is a form of interception. Using the bed bug vaseline trick, you coat the legs of your bed with vaseline. When a bed bug tries to climb up it will get stuck. You can check the legs daily and you'll know whether you have bed bugs are not.
If you have wooden legs on the bed, use wax paper to make a sleeves that fit around each leg of the bed. Then coat the wax paper in Vaseline. Read Bed Bug Vaseline Trick for more information.
The vaseline trick is a bit old school. It works but it can be messy. It's also not a good idea if you have pets.
An update is to use double-sided tape. Again, if you have wooden legs, make a sleeve out of paper and then use the tape on the paper.
Climbup Interceptors Passive Bed Bug Monitors
If you want to get serious, the Climbup Interceptors are a great idea. These bed bug monitors are small plastic cups that fit under each leg of the bed. They work with metal or wood beds and are both safe and clean.
Climbup Interceptors have two separate chambers, an inner chamber that catches bed bugs trying to exit the bed and an outer chamber that catches bed bugs trying to enter the bed. This is helpful information if you're trying to kill bed bugs.
Using these monitors is as simple as taking them out of the package and putting one under each leg of the bed. Check the monitor in the morning and you'll know if you have bed bugs.
What's nice about these is that you could travel with them easily. They're not going to be 100% conclusive for a one night stay but for their price (roughly $25 for a set of four) it would be worth having the extra comfort. Then if you find out your hotel room has bed bugs after all, you can deal with the situation appropriately and prevent bringing an infestation to your home. Bedbugs in Hotels and Hostels tells you how to handle that situation.
Active Bed Bug Monitors
Active bed bug monitors are a little more high-tech.
Bed bugs are attracted to carbon-dioxide, heat and certain pheromones. The way an active bed bug monitor works is to emit a combination of carbon-dioxide, heat and/or scents to attract bed bugs. There is usally a rough surface that bugs use to climb into the trap. Then they fall into an area called a pitfall which is deep and smooth. The bed bugs can't climb out so they are trapped. Active monitors are regarded as more accurate and reliable than passive monitors.
Bedbug Beacon CO2 Active Monitor
The Bedbug Beacon uses CO2 to lure bed bugs out of hiding. It works very quickly: it starts attracting bed bugs in a few minutes according to the manufacturer. One CO2 charge will last up to five days and the Bedbug Beacon and the kit comes with enough supplies to last 2 weeks. This is nice because it means you don't have to fiddle with it every day.
The Bedbug Beacon is recommended for the following:
- As an early detection system (for example, you just got back from a business trip and want to be sure you know about possible bed bugs you brought back before an infestation has time to build).
- To help draw bed bugs away from you and your loved ones during an infestation.
- Catch any bed bugs that survive an extermination.
This can give you good peace of mind for around $50.
NightWatch Bed Bug Trap and Monitor
A product you might also see is the NightWatch Bed Bug Trap and Monitor.
The NightWatch runs on a timer. For a period of time it emits CO2, heat and scent, luring the bed bugs in. When you run a NightWatch for 2 weeks and it doesn't catch any bed bugs, it is 99% conclusive that you are in the clear and do not have a bed bug infestation.
Many bed bugs exterminators will lease this monitor to you. These monitors are around $400, so leasing is a good option for many people. Also, if your bed doesn't have legs and you can't use any of the passive methods described above, this approach would still work. If you are a landlord or property manager, buying a monitor would be a good idea where they would serve well in detecting early infestation. The same goes for hotels, hostels and shelters.
The NightWatch is simple to use. Set it up on the floor, plug it in, insert the lure and CO2 source, set the timer, and you're on your way. Then just check the monitor in the morning.
Can't figure out which monitoring method or device to use?
If you find yourself a little confused and can't decide how to go about trapping bed bugs, read Bed Bug Traps Compared. This will show some of the main characteristics of each method side by side and help you figure out which is best for you.