Bed Bugs: Traps From Planet Powder

The research paper on bed bug lures (see the references in the first post) described pitfall traps made from small dishes coated with “fluoropolymer resin” (which is, I think, just some Teflon spray lube) and cat feeding dishes with a layer of talcum powder inside. The general notion is that the bugs can crawl in, but then can’t crawl back out.

You can buy ClimbUp Insect Interceptors for roughly $5 each that fit under furniture legs. They have two concentric moats filled with talcum powder, so that you can tell whether the bed bugs were coming or going. That’s helpful if you don’t know whether the infestation is in the bed or in the room.

You can build much the same thing from common household items for basically zero dollars. Your choice.

I made several different types of powder traps from various food containers. The simplest is just a lid from a raisin canister with a layer of powder:

Powder trap
Powder trap

Scuff up the outside edge with sandpaper, although I think the bugs are pretty good about climbing up obstacles on their own.

You can use these under gas lures or furniture legs:

Powder trap as furniture isolator
Powder trap as furniture isolator

Be careful the coaster doesn’t snuggle up to the rim, as shown there, thus allowing the bugs to travel between furniture and floor without visiting Planet Powder. In this case, there’s a tape barrier a foot further out: this is our abandoned-in-place couch.

Here’s what happens when a book louse heaves itself over the outer edge:

Book louse in powder
Book louse in powder

Not only do they lose traction, they get entirely fouled up in the powder.

This, we think, is one of the few bed bugs from our infestation, caught in a powder trap using a carbon dioxide lure:

Bedbug nymph in powder
Bedbug nymph in powder

This is what the critter looked like after rinsing it off in a generous dollop of denatured alcohol:

Bedbug nymph
Bedbug nymph

In my experience, when you find a bug near the perimeter, it just crawled in over the edge: they do not travel very far after landing on Planet Powder. A bug near the center probably came from the furniture, although we didn’t have that happen.

A stereo zoom microscope makes scanning Planet Powder for intruders much easier. Compared to what you didn’t spend on commercial CO2 lures and powder traps, you can buy a really nice microscope and have change left over. You should gimmick up a camera adapter so you can show off your findings.

I also used a headband magnifier. After a while, you don’t even feel like a dork when you walk around the house wearing one. Trust me on that.

A good LED flashlight comes in very, very handy.

If you arrived here by a search engine while looking for something completely different, note that “Planet Powder” has nothing to do with detergents or music.

20 thoughts on “Bed Bugs: Traps From Planet Powder

  1. “I also used a headband magnifier. After a while, you don’t even feel like a dork when you walk around the house wearing one. Trust me on that.”

    Why would someone feel like a dork? OOhhhh, maybe THAT’s why my kids and their friends snicker at me…

    When I started my first real job out of High School, one of the old timers couldn’t live without one. I thought I’d try it to see how much it helped, and, well, it actually made it harder to see things. 25 years later, I find myself reaching for them when I want to reply to a text message on my phone…

    – Steve

    1. one of the old timers couldn’t live without one.

      One day, when I wasn’t paying attention, somebody snuck up on me, jacked up my radiator cap, slid a grownup body underneath, and lowered the cap. Now I’m one of them, with eyes (and, alas, ears) to match…

    1. Actually, we used ordinary talcum powder, but DE should work just as well.

      Although the references indicate that a light dusting works well on the floor, the intent here was cause the bugs to lose traction when they hit the drifts. Once they get over the edge, that’s the end of the story!

      So, in retrospect, a uniform powder layer maybe 1 mm deep would be better all around. Make sure it’s easy for ’em to get into the container and the dust will make sure they never get out.

  2. Hello,

    Could you please tell me when this page was created? The date?

    I’m interested in the date of the Teflon spray comment at the top.

    Thanks. It’s for a legal paper.



    1. At least for the theme I’m using now, right down at the bottom of the post, you’ll find this annotation:

      This entry was posted on 16-November-2010, 07:10

      That’s all there is to it; I probably created it a few days earlier, but that should be close enough.

      Now, you probably want the date of the research paper, for which you must follow the links… it’s been around for quite a while, though.

      What’s your paper all about?

  3. Have you tried combining the DE with these traps? I’m curious to know if that would generally work

    1. DE is a relatively slow killer that works best with repeated applications and, in principle, the critters never escape from powder traps: ordinary talc seems to coat them well enough and there’s no need for anything more complicated.

      Good hunting!

  4. I filled my powder traps with DE, but that’s just because I had a huge amount of it on hand and nothing else… but then I never caught anything, so who knows?

  5. What do you mean by “carbon dioxide lure”? This is the first I’m reading about powder traps – I think I’m going to have to have a go at it. Thanks for posting!

    1. What do you mean by “carbon dioxide lure”?

      A doodad that emits carbon dioxide, in the hope of attracting bedbugs. However, DIY versions almost certainly don’t work and the commercial ones seem even less cost-effective, for reasons I covered there.

      1. Ah, I see. Thanks so much! I just bought some DE and am about to make my own traps. I feel like I’m in battle.

      2. After reading this reply and the article linked, I’m left with one question… I have what seems to be a small, centralized infestation in a pretty large apartment. I think they’re living inside the walls, because there’s no faeces or skins or live bugs left at this stage of the war–just bites. Guerilla tactics, and I can’t seem to get the last bastion. (pyrethroids, de, laundering are leaving me at a stalemate).

        So, I doubt you actually had any produced numbers on the dry ice traps. But what I understand from the Rutgers studies is that they, if only for the first day or so, produce equivalent co2 outputs to the human. Further, I don’t quite get your statement about the commercial equivalents; they seem like less likely to work. BBB would produce even less co2/min and verifi’s use of ‘zomg pherom0nz’ is pointless.

        What about tactical positioning of many smaller dry ice traps composed of a climbup and a styrofoam cup, like in Bed Bug TV’s video?

        1. any produced numbers on the dry ice traps

          I couldn’t think of any convincing way to measure it, but the granulated CO2 we got probably sublimates faster and more uniformly than a solid slab. You could figure rate from mass divided by time and converted to the gas equivalent, but I wouldn’t believe much of it.

          I don’t quite get your statement about the commercial equivalents; they seem like less likely to work.

          That’s pretty much what I said: lure effectiveness depends on gas production and yeast reactors don’t produce much gas. I think we’re in violent agreement!

          tactical positioning of many smaller dry ice traps

          That’s probably useless, because the traps aren’t particularly effective and you have a breeding population tucked away in harborages.

          Each female produces 5 eggs per day for 100 days, so you’re not going to run out of bedbugs any time soon. The only ones you trap are the ones emerging from the wall and, if you’re still getting bitten, you’re still helping them progress from stage to stage.

          We were fortunate, in that we managed to stamp out the first bug (or two) before it settled in for the long haul. I think your only recourse is a professional exterminator to wipe out the harborages.

          Good luck!

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