The Best Bed Bug Traps

While bed bugs can be hard to spot, there are ways to fight back. Learn about several DIY bed bug traps and what to do if you find these pests in your home.

bed bug traps

Bed bugs are external parasitic insects that pose a threat to you and your family's well-being if they are brought into your home. Worse, they're often extremely difficult to eliminate.

While bed bugs are resistant to many over-the-counter treatments, some can be contained (though not eliminated) using bed bug traps. These DIY tips on how to make bed bug traps can help you take immediate steps to save you and your family some discomfort until a professional arrives.

Do Bed Bug Traps Really Work?

Here's the million-dollar question: Do bed bug traps really work? The answer is yes, they can… but usually only as a monitoring tool until a bed bug control professional can inspect your home and determine the best solution to eliminate them. Bed bug traps aren't really traps for catching bed bugs as much as they're traps for monitoring bed bug activity. With that in mind, take a look at how to make bed bug traps.

How to Make a Bed Bug Trap

Before making a trap, think about what draws bed bugs out of hiding. Do bed bug traps attract bed bugs? Yes and no. There are two types of bed bug traps: active and passive traps. Active traps are used to attract bed bugs and are best left to the professionals. Passive traps are used in a typical travel path for bed bugs for incidental capture. Some passive traps can be easy to DIY.

Take a look at three different types of passive DIY bed bug traps.

Interceptor cups

Interceptor cups are designed to trap bed bugs while they're moving from their hiding places to their food source. These bed bug traps work on the principle that bed bugs can travel over rough or textured surfaces but are helpless to climb smooth surfaces. Researchers at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station have put together instructions for one you can easily make at home using sugar and yeast as bait. You'll need:

  1. 2 Large plastic dog bowls (the type with a divider down the center for food and water)
  2. Cloth tape or surgical tape
  3. Talcum powder
  4. Cotton balls
  5. 4–5-gallon plastic container with a lid
  6. A large spoon or yard stick
  7. 150 g dry active yeast
  8. 750 g granulated sugar
  9. 3 liters of warm water
  10. 4 pieces of wood or other material

First, wrap the outside walls of the dog bowls with tape, making sure it fits tightly and doesn't have any gaps where the insects can hide. This gives the bed bugs a rougher surface to climb on.

Now, flip the bowls upside down. Use the cotton balls to lightly dust the inside of the dog bowls. This helps prevent the bed bugs from climbing back out of the interceptor trap. Set these aside once you've dusted them, making sure you keep them upside down.

Next, add the yeast and sugar to your large plastic container. Check your water temperature to make sure it's at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (The temperature is important because it helps activate the yeast, similar to bread baking.) Stir the mixture for five minutes using your yard stick or spoon. This will now release carbon dioxide, which attracts bed bugs. In fact, the carbon dioxide you breathe when you're asleep is what attracts bed bugs to you.

Caution: Use the container lid to loosely cover the trap when it's not in use to keep children and pets out of the mixture.

It's time to bring back the dog bowls. (They should still be upside down.) Place a piece of wood or other material on each of the bowl bottoms. This keeps the container of sugar-yeast solution from touching the actual trap, which prevents the bed bugs from climbing the container walls.

Place your container on top of the pieces of wood. Your bed bug trap is now ready to go! It's best to set your trap out at night, when bed bugs are known to be most active. The bed bug trap will release carbon dioxide — about the same amount 1.5 adult humans would breathe — for around eight hours.

The idea is that the bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide released by the sugar-yeast solution. The insects then climb the tape-covered walls of the dog bowls and fall into the powder dusted area, where they'll be unable to escape.

Bed bug interceptors can be useful for monitoring furniture you suspect may be infested and confirming if you have a bed bug problem that requires professional treatment.

Related > Bed Bug Identification

Mattress encasement system

A mattress encasement system is a cover for your mattress and box spring. It's designed to trap bed bugs that may already be living on or inside the bed and starve them. The encasement also creates an impermeable barrier against bed bugs attempting to infest the bed. This system is also used as a monitoring tool because you can more easily identify any bed bugs on the surface of the cover, which eliminates the seams and crevices where bed bugs like to hide in between feedings.

You can find mattress encasements and box spring encasements at many major retailers, and some pest control services also sell their own systems. These systems can range in cost from less than $50 to several hundred dollars. Regardless of which system you choose, though, evaluate the following features of the cover itself to make sure it will be effective:

  1. The cover should be breathable, waterproof and comfortable to sleep on.
  2. Make sure it's 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.
  3. Inspect the cover's zippers to ensure they don't offer opportunities for bed bugs to enter or escape the encasement. Zippers that don't close fully or tightly are definite warning signs. Look for zippers that can be locked in place once closed for extra protection.
  4. Consider it a bonus if the company or manufacturer offers a warranty with their mattress encasement.
  5. If the encasement rips or tears then it should not be repaired, but should instead be replaced. You can add felt strips to metal frames to help protect your encasement against tears.

Tape and glue bed bug traps

The idea behind these is pretty simple: The bugs get stuck as they walk over the traps.

You'll need:

  1. Glue or duct tape (depending on the trap you're making)
  2. A sheet of paper or paper towels
  3. For a glue trap, simply spread the glue over the paper or paper towels and place it around the feet of furniture or your bed.

To make a tape trap, cut sections of the tape that are long enough to run the length of your paper or paper towel. Roll these into tubes, with the adhesive facing outward. Place the traps near the feet of furniture or your bed.

It's important to note that there's not a lot of proof out there that glue traps actually work for bed bugs. Those glue bed bug traps that have shown ability to work were specifically designed by professionals. Other types of bed bug traps, like interceptors and encasement systems, work better for monitoring bed bug activity.

How long do bed bug traps take to work?

With some DIY bed bug traps, you might see overnight results. Others may never prove effective. And, again, these traps are only a means of detecting and catching some bed bugs, not eliminating them.

We use some of these methods at Terminix® - interceptors and encasements are a part of our bed bug service. Other methods, like glue traps, are not as effective. And mattress and box springs encasements are used to monitor and prevent bed bugs from infesting your bed by eliminating their hiding places.

Bed bugs are difficult to control and aren't a DIY pest. If you suspect there are bed bugs in your home, you should call a professional, like Terminix, for a free inspection.


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