Bed Bugs: Dying on Planet Sticky

Even half an inch of masking tape forms an impenetrable barrier for small creatures; you could splurge on 2-inch tape to get more surface area if you’re squeamish. I did see a spider stepping daintily along a barrier, but, for the most part, all these specimens became mired within a few millimeters of an edge. That made it easy to decide which direction they were traveling: incoming insects stuck near the floor and a (very few) outbound insects stuck at the top, just after leaving the non-sticky surface.

This is, we think, a well-fed first- or second-instar bed bug caught on a tape barrier; it’s not quite the right shape for the book louse seen below. A powder trap caught the only other bed bug in our collection.

Bed bug on tape
Bed bug on tape

In addition to that sole bed bug, the tape barriers captured a steady stream of critters that were not bed bugs. The trick is sorting through all the false positives…

Given the number of books in the house, we caught many book lice. These have a disturbing resemblance to bed bugs, but are basically harmless to humans. You don’t really need books to have book lice, although we captured most of them adjacent to our bookshelves.

Book louse with 0.5 mm scale
Book louse with 0.5 mm scale

This scary critter is a carpet beetle larva. They survive on any fabric surface and can infest upholstery as well as carpets.

Carpet beetle larva with 0.5 mm scale
Carpet beetle larva with 0.5 mm scale

Dust mites, at least for their first few instars, are transparent little bags of bug stuff. The first instar may have six legs, just like a first instar bed bug, but successive instars have eight.

Dust mite first instar
Dust mite first instar

Here’s a close up view, showing it has eight legs:

Dust mite
Dust mite

We have no idea what this cute little thing might be. It’s about 0.5 mm in diameter and, to the naked eye, looks like nothing so much as bed bug crap. But it’s alive!

Spherical insect - dorsal
Spherical insect - dorsal

This terrifying apparition sprinted across the (non-isolated) kitchen table, whereupon I mashed it with a magazine. It’s most likely not a bed bug; we’re guessing a spider of some sort. That stylet in its proboscis doesn’t look spider-ish, though.

Red insect with stylet
Red insect with stylet

It might be related to this eight-legged critter; the lancet on the front end is similarly scary. The legs aren’t the same, though.

Mystery bug
Mystery bug

All in all, we found a bewildering variety of insects, bugs, and spiders wandering around in our house. None of them are particularly harmful, although I now have a (most likely pyschosomatic) allergy to dust mites.

We’re not entomologists: if you know what the mystery critters are, I’d like to hear from you!

Up next: a Hot Box that might forestall all this excitement.

17 thoughts on “Bed Bugs: Dying on Planet Sticky

  1. This is a great collection of bugs, your method seems to work better than some of the commercial products out there! Great job :D

    1. While you can’t trap your way out of a serious infestation, you can keep the critters out of a very limited area around your bed… at least if you strip down, shower, and don’t dally before diving into bed. [grin]

  2. The “spherical insect” is possibly/probably a Shiny Spider Beetle. They don’t harm people and feed on plant material, seeds, dried meat. They are small – 1-3mm, shiny, almost red black. We had a TON of them this summer and freaked out for a while (they look like they are filled with blood, just their own guts tho) until we tracked them down. They come and go but the summer past was particularly good for them apparently.

    1. Shiny Spider Beetle

      The legs don’t look quite long enough, but … it’s a better ID than we came up with!

      When you start looking for insects, it’s remarkably how many you find. Better to not look at all, we’ve concluded, and just stop worrying. Except, of course, for bed bugs. About them, we worry…

  3. Carpet beetle larva is not a beetle at all, but a springtail, Collembola: looks like member of the family Entomobryidae.
    Spherical insect is actually a mite not a beetle, and looks like an oribatid mite.
    Dust mite not the house dust mite, Dermatophagoides species, but one that would occur in house dust or just in homes. Red insect with stylet and mystery bug are both mites. They probably are predaceous mites.

    1. Sounds good to me… thanks!

      Those two bugs-with-stylets must have needles for some good reason and I can’t think of anything better than penetrating mammal skins for meals. Yikes!

  4. Actually the “red insect with stylet” may very well be an erythraeid mite. The “mystery bug”– a mite that could be member of family Bdellidae.

  5. Predaceous mites, not feeding on mammal skin, but attacking small mites, nematodes, small insects (immatures, too).

    1. My esteemed wife says they can all kill each other as much as they want… that’s got my vote, too!

  6. Would love to emply Planet Sticky….but we have wall to wall carpeting. Tried a homemade co2 trap [2 liter pop bottle filled with sugar and yeast in a tupperware container, but never found a bug yet. CO2 not strong enough?? would hate to spend $50 on the one available online]. Any ideas to still use the sticky tape?

    1. but we have wall to wall carpeting

      As nearly as I can tell, that translates into wall to wall harborages: plenty of places for bed bugs to hide. There’s certainly no way to apply tape to a carpet that bugs can’t avoid, so you can’t prevent their spread or determine if they’re on the move.

      You can isolate individual furniture by taping the legs, which may help disinsect a bed or a couch. The rest of the house seems like a dead loss as far as DIY bug control goes, particularly if you have more than a very very few bugs.

      I think yeast-reactor attractants can’t be successful, because there’s just not enough CO2 coming out to make any difference. If you have a bazillion bugs, yeah, some will wander into the trap by accident, but if you don’t capture any bugs, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any.

      Good luck…

      1. A while back I read specs for a co2 generator for aquatic plants. Enough sugar and yeast to fit in 1 gallon soda bottle. A few people I know started to wonder if that could possibly generate enough co2 to attract some insects. I should probably give it a try. The co2 generates for about one month if built right i believe but I could be wrong about that.

        1. if that could possibly generate enough co2 to attract some insects

          The numbers aren’t encouraging and, in particular, the flow rate seems so small as to be irrelevant. There’s more in that post and its comments. I think it may work for plants, but probably doesn’t suffice for bed bugs.

  7. I love this collection. I should post my collection up some time. One thing- the insect you said is a carpet beetle larva is actually a springtail of the collembola family. Collembola are fascinating! Not even considered an insect, but that part confuses me just a little bit.

  8. Collembola is not a family name, but I noted in a previous post that is looks like it is a member of the collembolan family Entomobryidae. Collembola is no longer classified as an insect as you (Gigi) said. The group Hexapoda is comprised of 4 groups called: Insecta, Diplura, Protura, Collembola, basically arthropods with 6 leg appendages.

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