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.]

12 thoughts on “Bed Bugs: Living on Planet Sticky

  1. Hi there!

    I’ve been through a bug infestation (thanksfully they were not bedbugs and were not biting me!) of approximately the same scale.
    I got a few silverfishes (Lepisma saccharina), first in my bathroom, and after a few weeks I noticed they moved to my bedroom.

    Here’s the point: I can confirm the “sticky tape” technique is highly effective.
    Within two nights I simply killed them all (I captured approximately 20 of them, and that was it).

    I decided to use this technique after I finally understood that the bugs were pretty good at hiding, and that killing them when I saw them simply wasn’t effective enough. Your experience confirms this (even if it’s a different bug type – a much worse one).

    Here’s a picture I took of one of the bug :

    They were approximately 5mm (1/5in) long.

    I’ve been reading your blog for the past hour.
    Thanks for posting all these details, if I ever get bedbugs I will know how to react !


    1. Excellent work!

      I hope that you never have occasion to use any of the techniques I’ve discussed. But, if you should happen to bring some bed bugs home, act quickly and I think you can wipe them out.

      Thanks for the good words…

  2. So, not quite a year later… what *did* you end up doing about that couch? I have a hard time imagining leaving it in isolation in situ forever.

    (The Significant Other (a nursing assistant by trade) has just found a massive infestation at work… and she thinks she brought it to her place. I’m sure hoping it doesn’t turn up here, but I’m putting down some DE and stickytape and reading up on these things just in case!)

    1. doing about that couch?

      After we were convinced the rest of the house was clear, my esteemed wife decided that, based on the pattern of bites, the couch was not infested. She proceeded to sit on the thing for several evenings over the course of a week, suffered no bites, and we gradually stood down from DefCon One: it’s now back in normal use.

      But the LR remains rather empty without those recliners…

      she thinks she brought it to her place

      Cuing angelfire in three, two, one …

      Highly recommended: build a hot box and start using it on everything she brings over. If you can talk her into it, keep a change of clothing at your place and have her peel down right into the washer on the way in. Makes for a bit of an awkward entry, yes, but it’ll vastly simplify your life when she does discover bed bugs in her bed.

  3. More awkward than you think: I now live in an apartment, and the laundry is upstairs and halfway across the building! :)

    1. Two words: Lady Godiva.

      [Update: Mary suggests she should peel down into a giant Ziploc baggie inside your apartment door. Remarkably off-putting and more than a little awkward, but you’ll light a candle in thanks if it keeps your place from an infestation. Put her purse in the bag, too!]

  4. im on month and a half of infestation. i (we actually=me and the boyfriend) live in a huge 5 bedroom house in a city. the bugs are only in our room. fingers crossed. we have no idea how we got them. our frequent out of town house guests or perhaps my own travel or just city life. but ultimately it doesnt matter. they are here. and they decided my room was delicious…probably because im the only roommate that is here 100% of the time. me n the man are a for sure meal every night. the others roomies live here infrequently due to work etc. so although we had the entire house fumigated along with all our un dryable belongings bagged for 3 weeks with poison strips. my room remains the only one infested. we all think, anyways.

    i confirmed the continued presence this morning with new blood spots on the white sheets. its the first sighting in 2 weeks. but obviously we still have the lil !@#*&!! sigh. so tonight i employed planet sticky thanks to you. the bed is surrounded. rolled duct tape. i put a large plastic sheet under the mattress and over the platform bed with a ring of duct tape facing outwards so when they try and get us tonight they have to cross the tape and hopefully get stuck. im praying this keeps them at bay till i can get the exterminator in here for yet another round of poison. (this will make 3xs) this has been a miserable experience and i really hope this next round is the last. unfortunately this house is a rental and pulling up the carpet is not an option i can afford. i just bet those beasts are happily living in said carpet. and with so many people in and out of the house its a real nightmare in paranoia and if im spreading the bugs, etc. ugh. i cant imagine trying to get a dorm room infestation under control cuz this is really testing the limits of my mental and physical and economical capacities. so glad we dont have kids yet. goodness. anyways thanks for blog. its really helped… i think planet sticky is going to be my new favorite planet in the solar system.

    1. my room remains the only one infested

      Even with the very few bugs we had, they weren’t limited to a single room, so I’d expect your exterminator will treat the whole house again.

      If you can persuade your roomies to isolate their furniture, too, that will help identify where the bugs appear. Bagging the mattresses and box springs should contain the most likely infestation sites, but (as we discovered) other furniture may be a dead loss.

      a real nightmare in paranoia

      Until an infestation happens, you just don’t realize how stressful it will be…

      Good luck!

      Good luck!

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