Bedbugs are in the news. After decades of dormancy, they have become rampant. What is really scary is that you may have them and not even know it. Many people do not actually react to a bite with redness and itching. That means the bedbugs can multiply and the infestation become worse.

Our guest on the radio this week, Coby Schal, PhD, is one of the country’s leading urban entomologists. Not only does he specialize in cockroaches, but he has expertise in bedbugs. You may want to listen to his interview (Show # 785) to get an appreciation for the problem.

Dr. Schal suggests that the bedbug detector developed by Rutgers University scientists can be helpful. It works best if there are no people in the house. Using this homemade device before renting an apartment or buying a house makes sense since it is way cheaper than renting a bedbug detecting dog (the best method!).

Here is a question and answer on this topic and some interesting reader comments. Feel free to add yours!

Q. I am confused about finding bedbugs with the technique you described. Do you put the cooler in its plastic dish directly on top of the mattress? Does it have to be at night? Should the jug be upright or lying on its side?

I was in Africa and have been itching since my return. I do have small welts and don’t know what they are, so I am anxious to find out if my bed is infested.

A. Despite the name bedbug, these insects are not limited to the bed and can travel around the room. That’s why the “detector” developed by Rutgers scientists and described in Science News (Jan. 16, 2010) can be set up in a corner of the bedroom on the floor.

Here’s the technique: bedbugs locate people by sensing carbon dioxide, so to trick them you will offer them a source of carbon dioxide. Two pounds of dry ice in a third-gallon cooler (like a Coleman jug) with a flip-up spout will do that. With the spout slightly open, the gas leaks out slowly.

Place the cooler in a plastic pet-food dish and tape a piece of paper to the outside of the dish as a gangplank for the bedbugs to climb. Dusting the dish with talcum powder makes it hard for them to get out. Within 12 hours there should be bedbugs in the bowl if you have them in the room.

For some interesting comments check out this link with some good ideas.

You may also want to see some suggestions on how to avoid bringing home bedbugs when you travel.

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  1. PLC
    Reply is a clearing house for people to identify hotels, etc., where they have encountered bed bugs.

  2. Barb S

    When I was in India, we stayed on one hotel with bedbugs. We were told that the the telltale bites are always in a little row along the skin. We had them.
    Do US bedbugs make 4 to 7 bites all in a line?

  3. DWD

    Looking forward to hearing him on your show. He was quoted in a recent Raleigh News and Observer article, that he is working on attractants to get them to ingest pesticides. I wondered if the bed bug detector could be enhanced to make it more attractive with some small heat device to simulate body heat – not a light of course? I am thinking along the lines of these small flexible grow mats used for houseplants and seedlings.

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