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How to Make a Bedbug Trap for Do-It-Yourself Detection

Q. I am getting ready to move into a new apartment but before I sign the lease I want to test for bedbugs. I read about a home-made trap using dry ice to generate carbon dioxide. It is my understanding that bedbugs are attracted to this gas.

I’m having trouble finding dry ice. Is there any other way to generate carbon dioxide in a trap?

A. Bedbugs have made a dramatic resurgence all around the world. The media got quite excited about this epidemic a few years ago. Headlines announced bedbugs in hotels and apartment buildings. the TV news loved this story and scared people so much that some were afraid to travel for fear they would bring home bedbugs.

There is no doubt that bedbugs are hard to detect and eradicate. We completely understand why you would want to test for bedbugs before signing a lease. The best method is to hire a certified dog-detector.

After a trip to Italy last summer we came home semi-convinced that we had brought bedbugs home with us despite taking precautions to wash all our clothes and keep luggage in the trunk of the car to roast for several days in the heat. When we kept waking up with bites the next morrning we decided to hire the beagles. Two amazing dogs scoured our home from top to bottom. They sniffed everywhere, and fortunately for us, did not find a single bedbug. Here is a picture of Sadie…one of two amazingly well-trained bedbug detectors.


Now it is not inexpensive to hire trained dogs to scour your home for bedbugs. Plan on a couple of hundred dollars or more, depending upon the size of your home. In some places it may be even more pricey.

A few years ago we stumbled across a reference to a home-made bedbug detector using dry ice. Here is a link to a picture of the detector. The problem is finding dry ice. It is not always readily available and it lasts a relatively short time.

That is why we were pleased to read that there is a new, relatively easy bedbug trap that relies on fermentation to create carbon dioxide. The description was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology (Aug. 2013). Bedbugs use carbon dioxide to locate humans, which is why carbon dioxide can be used to lure them into a trap.

The researchers used the following formula:

– 2 tablespoons of baker’s yeast

– 10 tablespoons of table sugar

– 3 cups of warm water

Put the mixture in one gallon plastic milk container (with the lid off). Set it on top of an upside-down dog food dish.

Dog_dish This dish needs to have the outer edge wrapped in paper surgical tape that is colored black. The researchers say that bedbugs prefer black to white. We used fabric dye to color the white tape. The researchers used a black leather dye to accomplish this.


The inside needs to be lightly coated with a special nonstick product called Fluon from BioQuip (Insect-A-Slip). This keeps the bedbugs from escaping once they’re in the trap (very important!). Here is the trap with the yeast fermenting the sugar in the bottom of the milk container and sending out carbon dioxide vapors that are irresistible to bedbugs.


This trap is merely to tell if the space is infested. It will not trap an adequate number of bedbugs to get rid of them. For that, you would need a specialist who can use heat. Bedbugs have become resistant to most readily available pesticides. The heat treatment needs to be administered by a trained professional who can monitor and control temperatures carefully over several hours.

Share your own bedbug story below.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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