Researchers find alternative for bed bug detection


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Photo by Andrew Rodriguez |

Changlu Wang, an assistant extension specialist in the Department of Entomology, worked with two other researchers on a method to capture bed bugs.


Three Rutgers researchers have found an alternative for bedbug detection — a trap made from household items that is cheaper and more effective than current methods.

Narinderpal Singh, Changlu Wang and Richard Cooper worked together with the intention of looking for more affordable methods of early bedbug detection.

“The appeal of this new method is its affordability and availability for everyone,” said Wang, an assistant extension specialist in the Department of Entomology.

He said their design consists of two parts, a plastic dog bowl with paper tape on the outside and a source of carbon dioxide.

The walls of the dog bowl make the trap different from the conventional method, since they are much taller than a traditional bedbug trap, he said.

“The paper tape is wrapped around on the outside of the dog bowl, so the bedbugs can climb it while looking for their food source,” he said.

Once the bedbugs fall in, he said, they can’t crawl back out due to the smooth, plastic surface of the dog bowl, he said. The dog bowl and the paper tape are both common dollar-store items.

Carbon dioxide is what attracts bedbugs to humans, he said. In order to catch the bugs’ attention, there must be another source for them to search for.

The researchers used a yeast and sugar mix with warm water. The fermentation from this mix releases carbon dioxide, which attracts the bedbugs, he said.

Other carbon dioxide generation methods include dry ice and carbon dioxide cylinders, he said.

“The CO2 cylinder is very expensive because you have to have a regulator with it. And the dry ice is both inconvenient and potentially dangerous,” he said.

Their best record of capture using the dry-ice method was 1,365 bedbugs in one night.

“For the sugar and yeast, we’re still collecting data, but we’re expecting very good results and haven’t been disappointed yet,” he said.

He said there is one drawback to this affordable method: possible overflowing.

For a four-gallon container, they use a solution consisting of 150 grams of yeast, 750 grams of sugar, and three liters of warm water, he said.

“The fermentation results in a lot of bubbles. If you’re not careful it will overflow, still killing the bedbugs, but in a messy way,” he said.

This trap is intended for detecting rather than killing the bugs, because the researchers wanted capture the bedbugs for study, he said.

They collect and count the bedbugs, alive or dead, said Chen Zha, a graduate student in the Department of Entomology.

“It’s good for confirmation, too,” Wang said. “After you hire an exterminator, you can use one of these traps as a quality check. If the bedbugs come back, you can take care of them before they reestablish another population.”

Some companies provide a grace period in which you do not have to pay again in the case of reinfestation, he said. If you can find more in the trap, you can ask them to come back and finish the job for free.

Heat treatment is a common and reliable practice in extermination, said Cooper, a graduate assistant in the Department of Entomology. A household dryer could kill any amount of bedbugs in clothing in about 15 minutes.

“Freezing treatment is another, less efficient treatment,” he said. “It’s inconvenient for widespread infestations. You can’t freeze a house. You’d damage it.”

Using smooth surfaces against bedbugs is also a common practice, he said.

Many people use the original plastic the bed comes in, he said. It’s too smooth for the bedbugs to climb on, denying the bedbug any chance of hiding.

“They can’t really hang out on the plastic surfaces, so it drives them to the bed linens,” he said. “From here it’s really easy to see them. You can just take your bed linens and clean them off.”

Having at least a cloth encasement lessens the chance of hiding spots, he said.

“The bedbugs tend to go hide underneath the mattress, where you can’t see them,” he said. “When you have a bed on the floor it drives the bedbugs underground or in the walls.”

This trap will help those in public housing communities, many of whom can’t afford bed encasements, he said. It helps to be continuously detecting and exterminating the bugs.

“We’re trying to figure out how many bedbugs it takes to start a new introduction,” he said.

For apartments without a history of bedbug activity, small infestations seem to be stopped easily, he said.

 “It’s all to give you peace of mind,” Wang said. “You’re actually using a reliable trap instead of worrying at night about them being around.”


By Andrew Rodriguez

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