While bed bugs can often be hard to spot, there are ways to fight back. Learn which bed bug traps work best and what to do once you’ve trapped them.
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that, if they enter your home, pose a definite threat to you and your family's well-being. Worse, bed bugs are often extremely difficult—and expensive—to eliminate. However, while bed bugs are resistant to many commercial, over-the-counter pesticides, some can be contained (though not eradicated) using bed bug traps.
These DIY tips for trapping bed bugs can help you take immediate steps to intercept some of these insects and save you and your family some discomfort until a professional arrives.
Use interceptor cups on furniture that may be infested with bed bugs.
Unless they are feeding, bed bugs like to remain hidden from view. Unfortunately, bed bugs are attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale while sleeping.
Interceptor cups are designed to trap bed bugs while they're moving from their hiding places to their food source. The cups work on the principle that bed bugs can effectively move over rough or textured surfaces but are helpless to climb smooth surfaces. The cups consist of a smaller inner container and a larger outer container. Bed bugs are able to enter these traps (either from the infested bed or from their hiding places in walls, floors and other areas of the home) but are unable to escape them. By placing a trap under each bedpost (or each leg of an infested piece of furniture), you can effectively trap bed bugs while you and your family sleep.
You can find commercially manufactured traps at certain online retailers, but most have not been proven effective by reliable testing methods. You can also make your own interceptor trap using such common household materials as plastic food containers, masking tape and talcum powder (or car polish). The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) posted an instructional video on how to construct these traps here.
These interceptors are great tools for monitoring furniture you suspect may be infested and confirming if you have a bed bug problem that requires professional treatment. They will not catch bed bugs that are already present on the same side of the trap as the host, and the most common places to find bed bugs are on the headboard and mattresses.
Use a mattress encasement system.
A mattress encasement system is a vinyl or polyurethane-lined fabric cover for your mattress and box spring. The system is designed to trap any bed bugs that may already be living inside the bed and to effectively starve them. The encasement also creates an impermeable barrier against any bed bugs attempting to infest the bed. These systems are also used as monitoring tools, and you can more easily identify any bed bugs on the surface of the cover, which eliminates the seams and crevices that bed bugs like to hide in between feedings.
You can find mattress encasements at many major retailers, and some pest control services also sell their own systems. These systems can cost as little as $20 to $40 and as much as $500 to $600. Regardless of which system you choose, you should evaluate the following features of the cover itself to make sure that it will be effective.
The cover should be breathable, waterproof and comfortable to sleep on. Make sure that the cover is advertised as "bite-proof" and that the salesperson or product information can back up this claim with specific information about the materials used in the manufacture of the cover. Finally, make sure the cover's zippers do not offer opportunities for bed bugs to enter or escape the encasement. Zippers that do not close fully (e.g., has a gap between the actual zipper and its "stop") or tightly (e.g., because the zipper "teeth" are too large) are definite warning signs. Look for zippers that can be locked in place once closed for extra protection.
If you have bed bugs in your home, you should call a professional. Bed bugs are difficult to control and are not a DIY pest. Consult with a professional pest management professional such as Terminix if you suspect bed bugs in your home.