Bed Bugs: Living on Planet Sticky

During the course of our adventure, we disinsected four rooms with varying degrees of attention to detail.

  • Our bedroom: everything except bookshelves
  • Guest bedroom: killed bed, but not much else
  • Living room: killed desks and chairs, isolated couch
  • Downstairs office: killed desk and chairs, spread DE

In each case, we wondered how could we demonstrate that there are no bugs left to kill? Yeast reactor lures don’t produce human-scale amounts of carbon dioxide, although we did deploy them to see what happens. Simply moving everything back into the room didn’t seem like a Good Idea: repeating the whole process if we got another bite wasn’t attractive.

Given the low level of infestation, we decided that the most effective bed bug lure was an actual human: me. Ideally, we could intercept the approaching bed bugs before they bit me and, if no bed bugs were attracted to me, then we simply didn’t have any.

Now, I’m not sufficiently brave (or stupid) to simply spend the night (“sleeping” may be too strong a term) on the floor, waiting for a bed bug to stroll over and puncture me. I laid out a barrier around an air mattress and sleeping bag: a ring of masking tape folded so half stuck to the floor and half presented a sticky surface to incoming bugs.

Tape barrier on floor
Tape barrier on floor

To date, we’ve gone through four rolls of masking tape and I just bought two more three-packs. Buy in bulk and save!

The best tape is ordinary, albeit good-quality (we’ve been using 3M), painter’s masking tape; the three-day kind works fine. Fancy long-duration blue tape isn’t sticky enough. You should pull the tape up, examine it for stuck bugs, and lay down fresh tape about twice a week.

This works well on our hardwood floors, but wall-to-wall carpets probably won’t provide enough flat surface for the tape. If you’re serious about this project, those carpets might just have to go…

I’ll leave to your imagination the picture of an air mattress, sleeping bag, and suchlike in the middle of a large rectangle of tape inside a stripped room. I’ve been sleeping that way, in various rooms, for the last three months. I didn’t spend any nights in the basement: it’s just too cold down there, even in summertime.

We only recently reassembled our platform bed, with a layer of diatomaceous earth underneath. I taped the cracks and gaps around the platform and applied a ring of tape to the outside: any intruders will encounter a sticky surface. So far, no bugs, although I just renewed the tape once again.

Isolated platform bed
Isolated platform bed

You can also lay tape down with the adhesive facing inward. Here’s the living-room couch we’ve abandoned in place, up on powder traps and isolated with a ring of masking tape:

Isolated couch
Isolated couch

After you’ve deployed a variety of lures, traps, and tapes, you’ll start collecting a wide variety of insects and bugs. Some of them might even be bed bugs…

[Update: If you’re arriving from that link in, this adventure has many parts. Start there to see them all.]