Bed Bugs: Furniture Isolation

After we dismantled our bedroom, Mary got bitten while sleeping in the guest bed. That bed, a much smaller, more-or-less standard double bed mattress and box spring on a metal frame, was much easier to disinsect:

  • Wash and dry all the bed linens
  • Toast the pillow in the clothes dryer
  • Vacuum the mattress and box spring
  • Encase the mattress and box spring
  • Heat the frame to killing temperature
  • Reassemble everything
Encased mattress and isolated foot
Encased mattress and isolated foot

However, there’s not much point in doing that if a bed bug can simply crawl from the floor up a bed frame leg. We put powder traps under each bed foot, using tall containers to prevent access.

Although the traps collected a fair amount of dust, we didn’t find any insects of any kind in the powder.

Yes, that’s a length of Kapton tape on the mattress encasement. Mary discovered that heating the encasement with a hair dryer isn’t a good idea: the fabric is actually a non-woven plastic film that melts at a surprisingly low temperature. Kapton sticks to the fabric and the adhesive doesn’t promptly turn into goo.

Powder traps work well for stationary furniture like beds and tables and desks, but they aren’t useful for chairs. I applied a ring of tape (masking or duct, as you prefer) around chair legs, folded lengthwise so the sticky side is outward. The tubular steel legs on this office chair terminate in fishmouth welds on the central pillar, so the bugs can’t crawl up through the inside:

Isolated desk chair
Isolated desk chair

That’s the chair I pulled out of storage after scrapping out my homebrew car-seat chair. Turns out I installed the replacement seat about a week before sustaining a bite while sitting at my desk. Calling down the angelfire on that comfy chair was more annoying than expensive, but … no more bug bites in the basement!

For historic reasons, I use an ancient Balans chair at the Electronics Workbench. Four strips of masking tape isolated it from the floor:

Isolation tape on Balans chair leg
Isolation tape on Balans chair leg

Isolating the chair from the floor obviously doesn’t prevent a bed bug from crawling up your leg, but we never had a problem with that. They’re not really hunters and vastly prefer to lurk in furniture than track and pounce on a moving shoe…

As it turned out, we never trapped any bed bugs on chair legs, which is most likely a testament to how few bugs we actually had. However, larger tape barriers were quite effective in another context: isolating entire regions of a room.

Up next: Voyage to Planet Sticky