Sleeping with the Enemy: One Family's War on Bed Bugs.
February 21, 2019
For the past 6 years, we have remained bug-free, although bed bugs were seen in the local schools. We keep two plastic bins by the front door and everyone has learned to place their coats, hats, and mitts inside and snap the lids on tight. If we believe for any reason that we have come in contact with a bed bug, we put everything we were wearing directly in the washer and use high heat to dry. We have only had one instance of that happening this year. So far so good!
June 11, 2015
Just out of curiosity - has anyone tried any of the methods I listed, and how well did they work for you? It would be interesting to know. Currently, we are still bed-bug free. Not stink-bug free, but bed bug free. That's a whole other article. =) Please add your comments, I'd really like to know!
November 20, 2014
I've have been receiving a lot of requests to find out which chemicals were used when the professional came in to treat my house. Once again, my professional was moonlighting at the time, so I'm not having any luck getting any further information. However, he did leave some products here with me, and I have been using them from time to time, when I get itchy. You know. Just as a precaution.
I was really resistant about putting these on here, because I don't like chemicals. But... this is what it took to get rid of them. I do hope you will use them as a last resort.
The first one I have here isn't really a bug spray, it's a "sterilizer" - it kills all sorts of things. Bacteria, Fungi, Mildew, Germs, Viruses, it's a Deodorant, and it works on bugs as well, including bedbugs. It's called Steri-Fab and it's made by the Noble Pine Products Company in Yonkers, NY. I do like it, but I use it on the bathtub and in the kitchen as well for other reasons than bugs. EPA REG. No. 397-13. If you use it, please read the directions and use it properly! It's pretty powerful stuff.
The second one I have is a bug spray. It's call Prescription Treatment Brand 2211, and it's commercial strength. It's made by Whitmire Micro-Gen Research Laboratories Inc. in St. Louis, MO. EPA Reg. No. 499-473. You don't want to put this one on clothes, matresses, or anything you will actually be touching or using - it's more for cracks and crevasses, baseboards, and the underside of furniture. When you use it, get out of the room until it dries. It's also pretty powerful stuff. It's meant for commercial use as well.
Main ingredient: A-Cyhalothrin
You don't want to get either one of these on you or in you or leave them on anything you handle. The Steri-Fab, when I use it, I leave it on for a good ten minutes, then I wash it off very thoroughly. I use it on counter tops, and on the tile in the bathroom, and in the plastic bins that I use to hold the book bags and coats. I use it on my laundry baskets too. I spray a mist all over the inside of the bins and baskets, leave it on for ten minutes, and then rinse them thoroughly with the shower hose, and dry them off.
The 2211 is residual and needs to be left on, so make sure you put it in places that aren't used. It comes with tubing so you can inject it into floorboards and base boards and the inside areas of your couch.
I hate, hate, hate chemicals.
I did everything in my power not to use them, and if you look at my main article here, you will see that. Anything that has "CIDE" on it means it KILLS. Bacteria, Fungus and Bugs are really no different than human body cells. This stuff will kill the cells in your body just as easily as everything else that's listed on their labels!
I can't say this enough: Do not let it get it on you. Do not inhale, do not ingest, and wash your hands thoroughly after using. And change your clothes!
You can't be too careful. It might not kill you now, or even make you feel sick, but as we all know, neither do cigarettes. The effects happen over time, and bad things, like cancer and emphysema, manifest later on. I'd rather see people living their elder years without an oxygen tube up their nose, or other permanent plastic devices permanently fixated to them! So be careful with chemicals, please!
Cigarettes aren't the only thing that will kill you slowly! Be careful with chemicals!
October 28th, 2014
We're still doing good. Just a quick head's up, because I seem to recall this was the time of year that notes started coming home from school about possible bed bugs. We bought a plastic bin with a top, and the kids throw their book bags into it every day as they walk in the door.
March 23, 2014
No sign of anything, (except in my dreams). It would appear that professional treatment is the way to go. Good luck in your endeavors!
November 16th, 2013 Update
No sign of anything. Knock on wood!
September 2, 2013 The Latest and Greatest Update.
September 2, 2013 The Latest and Greatest update.
I'm putting it here, right at the top, in order to say that everything we did below failed. We had no activity for quite a while, but about 2 weeks ago, it started back up again. When we inspected, we noticed there was a tear in the vinyl casing of one of the mattresses, and the occupant of that bed was severely bitten around the ankles - we concluded that the bugs trapped inside the vinyl for all that time came out very hungry.
However, when we broke down finally, and called in a professional, and he told us that this was not really the case - that all of our efforts were pretty much in vain. A couple eggs left scattered about, and they will re hatch, and it all starts over again. Which it did. He found fresh signs of them in all the areas we had attempted to eradicate them from ourselves.
Let me also add that our attempts to rid ourselves of the bugs simply caused them to find deeper hidey-holes in our walls, namely, the baseboards. And removing the couch simply caused them to move into different furniture in the living room. Our professional told us that removing the couch also allowed them to drop off of it as we dragged the thing out the door. It's highly frowned upon to remove the furniture, as I've mentioned below, due to the fact that it spreads the bugs further.
Our professional came for the first time on August 30th, and used insecticides that he guaranteed would kill both bugs and eggs, and any bugs it didn't kill would be sterilized and unable to reproduce. He is going to return to do several treatments for us. And no, it isn't cheap. At all. But, he guarantees when the treatments are done, the bugs will be completely gone. I'll come back and let you know how that goes as well. In the meantime, allow me to share some new pictures, taken from the bed that had the ripped vinyl cover on the mattress:
The Signs are Obvious!
When you look at these pictures, you would think these things are easy to find. They are NOT!! When someone points them right out to me, then I think, "Why didn't I see that before?!?"
When you know what to look for, it's a lot easier to pinpoint the signs of them. This is my reason for posting all these embarrassing pictures. I can only hope they help others avoid being infested as we were.
Our professional rated our infestation as a 7 out of 10, because he found them in 4 rooms of our house - all the sleeping rooms, and the living room. He is not at all worried about eradicating them, though - he's very confident in their products. He's a friend of the family, and so our cost was discounted; however, it was still extremely high, compared to other types of insect treatments.
I'm sorry I don't have better news to report. Feel free to read the whole article; just know that everything we did was in vain. It was a lot of constant, diligent work, and although it did seem to work for the short term it simply drove them in deeper and caused them to find new homes within the house.
I wish you the best of luck, you're going to need it!
Bed bug life stages, before and after eating.
She flipped the note her son had brought home from school into a pile of other papers on the kitchen counter. It warned that bed bugs had been seen in the school building, and to take precautions. She thought nothing of it. In 47 years of living, she had never once seen a real live bed bug.
That was before she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio.
But wait. It was true; she had moved around a lot in her lifetime, and had seen all sorts of different insects from around the world. But she settled in Cincinnati, married, and began raising her kids there. She had been living in Cincinnati for over 20 years now.
So, in 20 years, she had never seen a real live bed bug in Cincinnati, Ohio, either. Soon that was going to change.
Night Night! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!
My mother used to say that to me when I was a kid, and her mother said it to her. She had never seen a real bed bug, and so I always thought bed bugs were like elves or the boogieman; they were a bedtime story, and didn’t really exist.
This is our story of our bungling attempts to deal with bed bugs. If you are reading them to obtain a cut and dry way to be rid of them, here is your answer. Seek a professional. We can’t afford a professional, so we chose to try and handle them ourselves. We had, and still have, no idea about what we are doing, other than what we have read on the Internet. (As everyone knows, because it is an unwritten rule; they can’t put anything that isn’t true on the Internet.) I’m offering the truth about our private battle, and I will tell you this right now. We have not yet won the war. So I would read this as one person’s (sometimes ridiculous) experiences in attempting to deal with bed bugs, and not as an instruction manual on how to exterminate them. And so we begin.
I didn’t meet my first bedbug until I was 47 years old.
We suspect the kids brought them home from school. We did receive a note from the school, saying to keep our eyes open. I didn’t give it much thought, considering I’d never, ever seen a bedbug in my life.
Approximately 3 weeks later. I started to get these funny round pink spots on my arms – all in a line. No raised bite marks, no red dot in the center; just flat pink spots. They kind of reminded me of chigger bites, because chiggers will move from one spot to the next. But they weren’t as horribly itchy as chigger bites. We sleep in the attic, or loft of our house, and so I suspected baby spiders. I vacuumed thoroughly and changed the sheets in response. I’m an outdoorsy type, familiar with mosquitoes, chiggers; bug bites. So I didn’t think much of it.
But now that I was aware, I realized I got more red spots when I snoozed on the couch; much more so than when I slept in the bed. I pointed them out to my family, but no one else in the house seemed to be getting them. My husband shrugged, and figured it must be an allergy of some kind. Dissatisfied with that answer, I vacuumed the couch, took the covers off the cushions, washed them and put them back on, and found that to have no effect at all. I decided I must be allergic to the laundry detergent we were using.
That’s when I once again stumbled across the information sheet that was sent home from the school. It talked about the signs, and the trailing red spots bed bugs leave behind when they feed. Usually, they leave no signs at all. They actually inject an anesthetic into your skin so that you never feel the bite; but over time, you become allergic to it and eventually will start showing pink spots. I also read about some of their other behaviors. We grew very suspicious. That’s when I turned to my first weapon.
Pay attention, now. Throughout this article, I will reveal my entire arsenal of valuable bed bug fighting tools.
Tool #1: The Internet. The Internet told us that bed bugs are most active between the hours of 10pm and 4am. They like to feed when you are at your deepest level of sleep. Using their anesthetic, they come and go completely unnoticed, and may go unnoticed for months until the red spots start to show up on your skin. It said that bed bugs are very good at evading detection, and that the best time to look for them was during their feeding time. They do not like light.
So, our first step in our little war was to look for bed bugs at night, in the dark. We found this bit of information to be very true, and very effective. There is also a very effective app for that. So, Tool # 2: your cell phone.
Tool # 3: Flashlight app. There are several versions to choose from, and many of them are free. This is a wonderful little app to have; it helps you find all sorts of things, and the light is concentrated into one area. For our purposes here, this concentrated beam of light is excellent for finding bedbugs.
So the war began, but at this point, without me. I’m laying in bed, about 2am, and something wakes me up. I open my eyes, expecting darkness; but I see a strange glow emanating from the ground. I peer over the edge. It’s a light. This very tiny, bright point of light, in my bedroom. Strange; I don’t have a clock with a light like that… !!! It’s moving! Right next to my bed! I bounce up with a squeak, and take a defensive stance, kneeling in the center of the bed. I don’t realize it’s my husband, crawling around on the floor, using his flashlight app, until he shines it up into my eyes and says, “You’re up. Come look at this.”
And to my horror, that is the moment in time when my life changed completely. I saw it.
My first bed bug.
I was totally horrified, and mortified, and disgusted, and suddenly incredibly itchy all over. We were both wide-awake, and went into full hunt mode.
Sitting in the pitch dark at around 2am, we investigated our mattress. Between 10pm and 4am is the best time to look for bed bugs and actually see them. They hide in the seams and creases of things. Of ANY thing. They like material best, but if they can’t find that, they will take the next best thing. In this case, they were tucked into the seams of the mattress. We found them alone, or in little groupings, all the way around the bed.
Just looking at the mattress and shining the light on it in the dark will show up nothing. You have to actually pull the seams open and shine the light down inside the seam line to see them. And there they were. Sometimes they are alone, but frequently they cuddle up in small groupings.
Immediately we jumped up and headed down the stairs, and inspected the couch in the early hours of the morning with this wonderful little flashlight app. And yes, horror of horrors; there they were. In the seams and creases.
I was completely horrified, and mortified, and incredulous; because it couldn’t POSSIBLY be bed bugs. For WEEKS now I had been trying to get rid of whatever it was I was allergic to. I washed the sheets, the pillowcases, and I took the covers off the couch cushions and washed them too. I vacuumed the couch frequently, and the top of the mattress as well. In all that time, I NEVER saw one single sign of a flea, a mite, a gnat, a tick, or a bed bug. That is how well they hide. But shine a light down a seam or crease you pull open…
(I will note here that there are other ways to detect the bugs, but you have to be bed bug savvy. Bed bugs leave droppings, and the droppings, when wet, will smear a brownish red stain. This stain often leaves a telltale sign in places where there is a large grouping of bed bugs. Also, bed bugs molt their shells. Once you have seen a shell, you will know it for what it is when you see it again.)
Examples of Bed Bugs, Larvae, Molted Casing, and Bed Bug Traps
We stood there for a little bit, looking at each other with our mouths hanging open. Both of us were doing the math, but my husband is much better with numbers than I am. We thought back to when we received the initial note from the school, and guessed that they had traveled home on a book bag and had been in the house for about 6 months. Learning from the Internet, it takes them a little time to get established, lay eggs, and start spreading. On this night, we found about 7 full sized adults on the couch, and about 6 in the upstairs mattress. A baker’s dozen; but as far as I was concerned this was a serious infestation. We had to get to work! And we did, immediately; that night.
Tool # 4: The vacuum. The vacuum is one of the most important tools in this battle. They can be easily sucked up. However, you can’t use the vacuum as you normally would by just running it over the top of your couch and mattress. You have to use the attachments and get down into every seam, every crease, every nook and cranny, and when you are done, you have to turn your couch and mattress completely upside down and do it again. Where the material ends and is stapled to the wood – you have to get in there. You have to get in everywhere. You can leave absolutely no spot un-vacuumed. Then, you vacuum the floor under your couch and mattress, to pick up anything that might have jumped off, before you put it back into place. Sometimes running the vacuum tools over the surface will brush the bugs off onto the floor rather than sucking them up. And remember, it’s not just bugs you are after; it’s bugs, larva, and eggs.
Obviously, there are going to be places you can’t reach, and incredibly, these bugs are adept at finding those places. I vacuumed that couch for almost 2 solid hours. I spent a good half an hour on the bed.
There was no way anything could have escaped my meticulous methods.
There was nothing further we could do, in the early hours of that ill-fated morning. Exhausted, we went back to bed. The battle had begun.
Tool # 1: The Internet. The next day, we turned to the Internet, where they can’t write anything that isn’t true. There was a wealth of articles about bed bugs, most of which said you could try to handle the problem yourself, but in the end you would need to call a professional. Nonsense, of course; so we carefully read the articles that offered home remedies. We had already used the vacuum, and the vacuum was a staple instrument in all of the articles. With diligence and tenacity and many repeated treatments, you could control or even rid yourselves of the bugs, using the vacuum. Maybe. But from reading, we learned that there were still the eggs and larvae to deal with.
Tool # 5: Vinyl/plastic mattress covers. This is fairly easy step. We vacuumed all the mattresses in the house very thoroughly, including the inner lining of every seam, and then put vinyl mattress covers on both the box spring and the mattress itself. Once encased, we put duct tape over the portion that zippered closed, just to be sure. Sealed tight, any bedbugs left on the mattress cannot get out, and will eventually die. Bed bugs can live for a year without a meal; should your vinyl acquire any tears or openings in that time, odds are very great that they will find their way out.
Bed bugs apparently use heat and carbon dioxide (your breath) to locate you. I wouldn’t doubt that they use the sound of your heartbeat as well. But if there is a hole in your vinyl, the bed bugs are drawn by scent, and chances are they will find their way to even the smallest opening, drawn by the fresh air. You will need to inspect your bed casings consistently. Bed bugs don’t like vinyl or plastic because they can’t get a good grip on it – they slide off. They won’t be able to crawl up the side of the vinyl. But that’s a moot point, because you aren’t going to sleep on plastic; you are going to put sheets on your bed. They can climb up and hide in the sheets, blankets, pillows and pillowcases. Thankfully, most of these items are machine washable, and can be changed frequently.
Tool # 6: The Washer and Dryer. Bed bugs are said to drown easily, so I expect washing your sheets and blankets and pillowcases will have some effect, but the really effective weapon here is the dryer. Run your dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes, and you will effectively kill any bed bugs that are in there.
Tool # 7: Plastic bags that seal shut. The public schools now require that you send one to school with your child. It must be big enough to store their coat and book bags in; a number of schools do this now in order to help prevent the spread of bed bugs. Yes, the spread of them. Here is the kicker; the truth that rips all the hope and enthusiasm out of those who think they can handle the situation themselves: Bed bugs don’t just live in beds. They live in clothes, sheets, blankets, rugs, stuffed animals, book bags, coats, hats, books, toys, wall outlets, baseboards, CD cases, video game cases – they prefer cloth to plastic, but if cloth is not available, they will make do. Yes - this highly unpleasant new piece of information is, unfortunately, true. Once you have them in your house, they can be anywhere.
Take a deep breath, now, and get your equilibrium back. Let’s focus back on Tool 7: the self-sealing plastic bag.
Learning from the practices of the public school, the kid’s coats and book bags go straight into a plastic bag when they walk through the door after school. They also change into play clothes when they arrive home. They put their school clothes into another plastic bag, which is taken straight to the washing machine where it is, ideally, put into the machine and started, or at least thrown into the dryer for 20 minutes. Of course, people have lives beyond just dealing with bed bugs, so this can’t always be done right away. Sealing the clothes into the plastic bag allows for more time.
Plastic bags are also important tools to use while attempting to remove the infestation. If the bed bugs are in a room, you have to resolve yourself to the fact that you are going to have to take the room completely apart. Put everything into large, heavy plastic bags that can be obtained from the bed and bath sections of most department stores. You can also find large bags in the trash bag aisle, or in the freezer bag aisle; but the truly big ones are usually found in the department stores. Seal them until you have time to deal with them. Vacuum everything that can’t be removed; that includes walls and baseboards, and seal the all the mattresses in plastic. Mattress covers can also be obtained in bed and bath stores or departments, and they range greatly in price. Just remember that it doesn’t matter how much they cost, once they get a puncture or tear in them, they need to be replaced. (You can repair them with duct tape, but it only takes a small opening.)
You can now treat the room with bed bug sprays or dust. We prefer not to use insecticides if we can help it, so we chose not to use anything but the vacuum and
Tool #8: Diatomaceous Earth; also known as bed bug dust. Bed bug dust is a very fine powder made of fossilized algae and microscopic plant life. It’s very dry, and sucks the water out of the very air around it. If bedbugs come into contact with it, it will dehydrate them as well. Some is sold mixed with insecticide; we chose the plain dust. This we injected into all the seams and openings we could find on the mattresses before we sealed the mattresses inside the vinyl covers.
We spent a great deal of time vacuuming, and we were certain we hit every single nook and cranny and possible opening there was in the entire room. (Absolutely positive. I say this tongue in cheek, of course.)
A note about the vacuum – when you are done using it, immediately throw out the bag or the contents of the canister, seal it in plastic, and put it in the garbage can outside of the house. Bed bugs are climbers, although they seem to be foiled by smooth plastic surfaces.
Once you are satisfied with the room it’s time to deal with the items in the bags. Inspect everything carefully and wipe them down. It is said bed bugs die easily when doused in alcohol; I wiped everything down with disinfecting/deodorizing wipes and ran items like clothing, pillows, and stuffed animals through the washer and dryer. If water will destroy the objects, run them through the dryer only. You can also vacuum seal the items in the plastic bags for a period of time, although I am uncertain as to whether the lack of oxygen will kill the bugs or not. It is my opinion that if they can live a year inside a mattress cover, you will have to wait a long time to ensure the bugs are truly dead.
Now it occurred to us that if we put all these freshly cleaned items back into the room, they would be reinfested if any bugs (or eggs) were still in there. We decided to take all the items and place them back into the plastic bags temporarily. It also occurred to us not to reuse the original bags; eggs and small larvae had very likely dropped off into the bags when we used them for holding the dirty items. We sealed the items in clean bags and kept the bags standing up, in an effort to prevent the bugs from climbing.
We filled all the cracks and crevasses of the couch with Diatomaceous Earth, and sprayed it up into the areas of the couch we couldn’t reach. After leaving the couch dusted like that for 3 days, we vacuumed it thoroughly and repeated the dust application. As far as we can tell, the dust did nothing but clog the filters in our vacuum and cause it to overheat. We can report that as far as the couch goes, we had no success with the dust. We cannot say how the dust is working on the mattresses, as they are still sealed inside the plastic vinyl mattress covers. We have no intention of unsealing them for at least a year.
Tool # 9: The iron. That old archaic thing we all used to use to smooth wrinkles out of clothing. It is said, on the Internet, that heat kills bed bugs, and so will steam, but you have to apply it in large enough doses to kill them. The dryer on high heat for 20 minutes seems to be an effective method. So, I reasoned, an iron might be used in place of an insecticide. (I didn’t get this idea from the Internet – this was my own brilliant idea.)
I found, to my chagrin, that steam ironing isn’t good for many of the items I used it on, because you have to allow time for the heat to penetrate. When you set your iron to a steam setting, this is a fairly high heat. If you leave the iron in one place for too long, you are going to burn the item you are trying to disinfect. Another quick note – it’s really not a good idea to steam iron over anyplace where you have sprinkled the Diatomaceous Earth. It absorbs the steam, and can make a nice mucky mess.
I can tell you this because I used the iron on the couch. Yes, the couch. I ironed the entire couch, with steam, and when I was done, I turned the couch over and ironed it again. I ironed every single nook and cranny I could reach. That couch was ironed three times over a period of six weeks. This caused the material on the couch to dry out, weaken, and rip.
By this point, I wasn’t really worried about the aesthetics of our couch. After having been munched on for weeks by these tiny vermin, my focus was concentrated on one thing; these bugs were going DOWN. However, I was amazed to find that bed bugs managed to survive through each and every one of my heat onslaughts, as we still found them on the couch when we inspected. We found no adults, mind you; just very small, crème colored bed bugs the size of a pin head. Even so, this told us that the iron wasn’t having much effect on the eggs.
We used the iron on book bags and other larger items like coats, and heavy blankets. I also completely ironed the rugs in the living room and our bedroom, using the steam setting. It can be a very satisfying sound to hear bed bugs popping under a steam iron, but I admit, I could have been imagining things. Perhaps I had simply cooked some other poor wayward bug that was in the carpet, or some other bit of dirt popped and sputtered in the steaming heat. Still, it was a satisfying thought while I spent hours refilling the iron with water, and meticulously steaming as I ran the hotplate slowly over every inch of the carpet. One quick note: I never actually saw a bed bug while I was ironing.
Is this an effective tool to use? Honestly, I have no idea. It does have great potential for damaging items that aren’t made to be steam ironed on heavy heat. Is it a dangerous tool? You do have to watch not to touch the hotplate; I still have a mark healing on my thigh where I inadvertently let the side of the iron come in contact with my leg.
Another thing that I noticed was that ironing furniture released a chemical scent from the cloth of some of the upholstery. I wonder if perhaps this might be a health concern; breathing fumes from chemicals used to dye or create the fabric. We turned on all of our fans and left the outside doors and windows open.
Tool # 10: Bed bug traps. There is no way of knowing how successful your efforts are without some sort of indicators. The best indicator is the flashlight, used in the wee hours of the morning. But once the adults are all gone, (and you will have great success removing adults using the above methods) it’s much harder to detect the eggs and newly hatched young. We discovered Buggy Bed traps when we visited a home and garden store. They can be viewed at this link. (http://www.buggybeds.com)
A quick note: If bedbugs get as big as the bugs they show in the picture on this website, I am really and truly horrified. The largest of our bugs was less than half the size of the ones that they have pictured. Bed bugs are also very flat, and don’t look fat like that unless they’ve had a nice meal. They rather remind me of a flat tick, except that they squish easily when pinched between thumb and forefinger; a tick will not. Above are some of the initial bugs we captured; these have been dead for a while and are dehydrated. There are plenty of better pictures of them, and their bite marks, on-line.
Bed Bug Glue Trap
The traps do nothing to help get rid of bed bugs, but they do help you to figure out which rooms you have them in. Bed bugs prefer to hang out in the rooms where you sleep or spend a lot of time. We put the traps under our mattresses and around the baseboards of our walls; anywhere we suspect they might be hiding. These buggy beds have a gluey substance that traps the bugs if they walk over them, but there really is no reason why they should want to walk over them. The traps are made of plastic, and offer no comfort to a bug. So for a while, we caught nothing with these traps, and we thought it indicated we were having great success without the use of a professional.
Still, I wasn’t completely sure of the results. My #1 Tool stated that bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide in your breath; so one day, just out of curiosity, I huffed into the center of the bug traps before I set them down.
Voila! We caught several tiny bedbugs. (And this is the roller coaster ride you go through. You discover how to make something work, and you get all excited. Then you realize it means you aren't winning the fight after all.) This was very disheartening; we had been vacuuming and washing and drying relentlessly, and we really didn't expect to catch any bugs in the walls; we just put the traps by the wall as a precaution. But it was also encouraging, in that we captured no adults, so although we had not eradicated them we were still accomplishing... something.
Also - now that we have learned how well the traps work with only a little bit of breath as bait, we now consider it part of our arsenal.
Tool # 11: Homemade carbon dioxide traps. You can find instructions for the creation of these on line at the following link: (http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/338bedbugtrap.pdf ) Basically, you use a plastic pet water-and-food-dish-in-one. You have to line the outside edge of it with cloth, so the bugs can climb up and fall into the dish. Once inside the dish, they cannot climb back up the plastic to get out. Genius. It is said that the entire infestation can be captured and removed, using this method.
In the center of the dish, you place a small cooler with dry ice. As it melts, it releases carbon dioxide, which attracts the bugs. You can also use other methods of producing the carbon dioxide – we used both dry ice and a sugar/yeast solution, which I also use in my terrarium. We found that these traps actually do work. Unfortunately, they do nothing to remove the eggs, and so require multiple uses.
Sugar/Yeast Bedbug Trap
We also made a trap using the lid from a plastic storage bin. We put cloth around the outer edge, the same as we did for the food dish, but since the lip of the storage bin lid is not as tall, we ensured the bugs wouldn't escape by painting a thick layer of petroleum jelly all the way around the indentation (that you can see in the picture) that surrounds the dry ice container. This version of the trap actually captured more than our cat food dish version, although I believe this was because we used dry ice instead of the yeast solution to attract the bugs. The yeast solution is a fermentation process, and releases the carbon dioxide in smaller quantities.
Dry ice can be purchased from shipping supply shops; some grocery stores also sell it. Call or do an Internet search to locate a place near you.
Tool # 12: Dry ice. We vacuumed. We dusted. We ironed. Nothing we did removed the bed bugs completely from the couch. We managed to rid it of adults, but consistently found young ones every time we inspected using the flashlight method. There were simply too many places on it and in it for them to hide. So, in a last ditch effort, we sealed the couch in plastic and dropped approximately 3 lbs of dry ice inside the plastic wrapping. We left it alone for 24 hours solid.
I was apprehensive about this. Were we going to go to sleep and never wake up because we had asphyxiated ourselves with carbon dioxide? Were we going to asphyxiate our pets? (We have birds – they have tiny lungs.) If you seal dry ice in an airtight container, the container can explode from the pressure of the gas released. Would the plastic around the couch explode?
We picked a time when we could throw open all the doors and run all the fans in the house. For more on dry ice: (http://www.dryiceinfo.com/safe.htm)
The result of this experiment was very anticlimactic. The plastic around the couch didn’t swell at all, which indicated to me that it wasn’t airtight. The dry ice melted very slowly, in fact, there was still a chunk of ice left after 24 hours. Thankfully, our birds did not succumb to it like canaries in a coalmine, and as far as we can tell, the carbon dioxide didn’t affect any of us adversely in any way. It didn’t affect the bed bugs, either. We found one almost immediately; a tiny little creme colored baby. It was very much alive.
Obviously there were flaws in our technique and calculations; we didn’t put enough research into it. First, we didn’t seal the couch in a properly airtight fashion. We had no success finding a seal-able bag that would encase an entire couch, so we wrapped it in plastic sheeting and used duct tape. Second, the ice didn't melt fast enough. We left it sitting, dry, on top of the lid to a Styrofoam cooler. We didn’t mix it with water. The carbon dioxide wasn’t released in large enough amounts to asphyxiate the bugs.
In the end, we gave up and had the couch properly removed to the dump. A quick note: This is highly frowned upon, because by throwing out your furniture and clothes and other items, you are sending the bugs off to infest somewhere else. If you are going to do this, you need to seal the items in plastic, and you need to make sure no one comes along and hauls the items off before they are properly collected for disposal.
Tool # 13: Disinfectant spray. It is said that alcohol will kill the bugs on contact. We have not used alcohol yet, so I don’t know. After being unsuccessful using all the above-mentioned methods thus far, I ... must note, that is NOT in accordance with it's proper labeling of use and you should review the safety precautions of all chemicals before you apply them ... I used a canned disinfectant spray along the baseboards where we had located the bugs using the buggy bed traps. And by this I mean, I soaked the baseboards with it, and filled the cracks behind, then turned on the fans, opened the doors and windows, and left the room all day; because the scent was pretty strong in there until spray dried. Once it was dry, however, there was no residual scent left over.
I also use the spray when I change the sheets on the beds. I spray the surface of the mattress covers well, leave it on for about 10 minutes, then wipe them clean with a water dampened DISPOSABLE cloth that can be thrown away a plastic bag. (When I'm in bed bug fighting mode, I treat everything as if it's covered in bug eggs.)
The disinfectant spray is the last weapon I have added to my arsenal thus far. After using the spray, we have found no more bugs in the bedroom, and after removing the couch completely, we have found no more bugs in the living room. Currently, our bed bug war has been waging for about three months. I’m not ready to say we are completely bed bug free. We still haven’t decided whether or not we are going to use a professional. One thing I do know, if you decide to take them on yourself; you have to be pretty obsessive compulsive in your cleaning and inspections. Vacuum daily, use plastic bags for suspicious incoming items, change sheets and wash pillows frequently. Keep clothing clean and up off the floor. Stay the course! It’s a long, drawn out battle, and definitely investigate other methods! If you have any good home remedies that don't involve poison, please feel free to leave a comment.
Update: July 27, 2013
Just a quick update. Since using the disinfecting spray on the baseboards, we have seen no signs of bedbugs. Even so, we have been continuing to change the sheets routinely and vacuum very thoroughly. We never did call in a professional service, but we believe our infestation was not well established. I THINK we have won. If I discover I am wrong, I will definitely add a new update.