how well do bed bug traps work?
Bed Bug Treatments

Do Bed Bug Traps Actually Work?

Traps are a solution for parasitic pests on your property. The idea of using traps to catch bed bugs is the first that most people have. But whether using them is a good idea is open to debate.

Do bed bug traps work? On the one hand, they do catch lots of bed bugs. Those that are caught can’t bite you, but the traps don’t catch bed bugs in your mattress. They also can’t catch tropical bed bugs, which can climb out of regular traps. They should only be used as part of a wider treatment regime.

The reason they’re not very effective is that most bed bugs live in the mattress. There’s nowhere to put a trap that can catch bed bugs in your mattress. Let’s take a look at their effectiveness.

Do Bed Bug Traps Work?

Bed bug traps work well, although they do have their drawbacks. Any exterminator will tell you that they’re perfect for monitoring an infestation, but not as a long-term solution. You should consider using them, but not exclusively.

Here’s a table of their pros and cons:

Pros Cons
Traps reduce the number of bites you get. Traps don’t catch bed bugs from your mattress, only ones from across the room.
Traps don’t use pesticides to kill bed bugs. Because they don’t use pesticides, traps don’t repel bed bugs at all.
Any trap that’s made of plastic could theoretically be used forever. They’re good value for money. Bed bug traps that use glue and attractants will eventually have to be replaced.
Bed bug traps are also known as ‘monitors.’ That’s because you can use them to monitor for bed bugs before you get an infestation. Traps don’t catch bugs from your mattress, so there might be some there, and you the trap couldn’t tell you.
If you brought just one bed bug home, the trap would catch it. You would stop the infestation before it starts. If you have a very bad infestation, traps won’t have much of an effect.

As you can see, bed bug traps achieve mixed results. But all of those drawbacks would be forgiven if they work, and help prevent infestations.

How Effectively Do Bed Bug Traps Work?

Bed bug traps don’t always work. Interceptor or ‘pitfall’ traps have been studied extensively. This has been the case ever since bed bugs made their first resurgence.

One paper on the topic looked at whether they trap different bed bug species equally well. The paper, entitled Differences in Climbing Ability of Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus, was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

The scientists looked at the two bed bug species in the U.S. These species are the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug. They found that:

  • Tropical bed bugs have more hairs on their feet pads than common bed bugs do. They also have a gland that secretes a sticky fluid to help them climb.
  • Because of these morphological differences, tropical bed bugs can climb out of common traps.

Tropical bed bugs were only recently introduced to the U.S. They first arrived in southern states like Florida. However, they’ve since been spreading across the country.

It’s practically impossible to tell the difference between the species with the naked eye.

If you were to rely solely on traps, then you may still get bites anyway. And that’s aside from the fact that bed bugs in your mattress don’t have to walk through the traps. They have direct access to you. So don’t use traps on their own. You can spray mattresses as it’s a contact killer.

How Fast Do Bed Bug Traps Work?

If they’re set up correctly, traps start working as soon as the bed bugs in your infestation get hungry.

The hungrier your bed bugs get, the braver they’ll be, and the more likely that they’ll try and climb up through the trap to get you.

As for how long it will take to get rid of your infestation, that depends on the size of it. If you have a large infestation that’s spread around the room, then traps will only get rid of them bit by bit. You’ll still have bed bugs for weeks.

And whether the traps work or not, you’ll still be getting bites. The bed bugs in your mattress aren’t affected by traps, so you’ll still be bitten and pestered anyway.

Bed Bug Interceptor Traps

Interceptor traps are small and made of plastic. They fit around the feet of your bed. The idea is that any bed bug trying to get to you from across the room won’t be able to.

What stops the bugs from being able to climb out is the design of the trap. Bed bug interceptors have an outer wall and an inner wall, with the area between acting as a well. The plastic of the outside wall is a material they can climb up, but the inner wall is not.

Unless you get a trap you fill with water, the traps don’t kill your bed bugs. You’ll have to empty them and kill the bed bugs yourself. How you choose to do that is up to you. As for whether you should buy them, here’s a summary of their positives and drawbacks.

Pros: Cons:
They decrease the number of bites you get. They don’t catch bed bugs that live in your mattress.
They are cheaper than other control methods. They don’t work on tropical bed bugs.
They work indefinitely, i.e., you never have to replace them. They don’t kill the bed bugs, that’s something you have to do.

Bed Bug Lures (Bed Bug Pheromone Trap)

Bed bug pheromone traps are similar to regular traps. The only difference is that they actively lure bed bugs in. That’s why these are called active lures, while regular traps are called passive monitors.

Lures give off pheromone attractants. Since bed bugs search for their host through sniffing out their pheromones, the lure confuses them. They seek out the lure rather than the person, and end up stuck inside.

Lures come in different shapes and sizes. Some have glue inside, so that the bed bugs can’t get out. Others are a plastic construction similar to the interceptor traps described above.

Some are designed only to check whether you have bed bugs, not to be a long-term solution. These lures are marketed towards people staying in hotels, for example, that want to test quickly for bed bugs. Pros and cons of lures include:

Pros: Cons:
They reduce the number of bites you get more than passive monitors. The attractant will run out over time, meaning you have to buy more.
Lures that are glue traps work on both tropical and common bed bugs. Like regular traps, lures don’t necessarily kill the bed bugs for you.
They can be placed anywhere in the room, not just around the feet of your bed. Usually more expensive than your average passive monitor trap.

Do Glue Traps Work for Bed Bugs?

Glue traps are precisely what you think they are. They usually sit in the same place as a passive monitor, i.e., around the feet of your bed. The idea is that bed bugs will have to walk over them. If they don’t, they’ll starve.

Again, these traps are made both to monitor and to trap. The point of a monitor is to check whether you have bed bugs. They’re best used if you know you have one or two bed bugs. Or, they’re good for when you’re traveling.

If you want to tackle your infestation, buy proper traps, not just monitors. Glue traps aren’t the best choice for trapping. If you have a big infestation, they quickly get covered.

Pros: Cons:
Glue traps are cheap and easy to find for sale. Like lures, glue traps eventually stop working since they stop being sticky.
Glue traps work on both common and tropical bed bugs. If you have a large infestation, the lure will quickly be covered with bed bugs.
Glue traps can be placed anywhere that there are likely to be bed bugs. The glue doesn’t kill them. They’ll still be struggling to get free, until they starve. That can take months.

DIY Bed Bug Interceptor Devices

Interceptor devices are very easy to make for yourself. The ones you can buy are just small plastic things, after all. You could make a DIY bed bug trap using any a small plastic tub, like the kind you get food in. A Tupperware tub would work fine.

You could also use a regular cup. Plastic and metal would be best, since they wouldn’t be able to climb out. Make sure that the surface outside is climbable, e.g., by wrapping it securely in the fabric.

Even if the bed bugs can’t climb in, though, these traps are still useful. They would still make it so that the bed bugs can’t reach you at night.

To prevent the interceptors from breaking, place a tile or similar hard layer underneath them. The weight of a bed is heavy enough to break a cup, for example. That’s why it’s best to use plastic or metal, especially if the cup/tub is disposable.

DIY Bed Bug Lure (Sugar and Yeast CO2 Trap)

Bed bugs are attracted to a few things. The three known lures are body heat, carbon dioxide and the smell of human skin. The easiest of these to recreate at home, and thereby lure bed bugs, is CO2.

You need to start with something like an interceptor device. One particularly clever idea is to use an upside-down dog bowl. This method was invented by Dr. Changlu Wang of Rutgers University.

If you’ve ever looked at the underside of a dog bowl, you’d see that it has a rim. There is a well just inside it, and then a plateau which is the bottom of the bowl.

This is the same as an interceptor device, only you can’t put it around the foot of your bed. But that doesn’t matter, since we’re making a lure, not an interceptor. Here’s how it works:

  1. Take the bowl and flip it upside down. If the outside of the bowl is slick metal or plastic, you need to make it easier to climb. You could make a small bridge that they can climb up. Alternatively, wrap the outside in fabric so that they can get up that way.
  2. Line the inside of the dog bowl with something the bed bugs can’t climb. The original idea is that you dust the inside of the trap with talcum powder. You could also use regular packing tape as its slick surface is very difficult for bed bugs to climb.
  3. Take 1.5lbs of sugar and a third of a pound of dry yeast. Combine them in a 4-gallon tub or larger along with 6 pints of water, at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir it for a few minutes without standing directly over the tub.
  4. Once you’ve finished stirring, the yeast will start to eat the sugar. This produces alcohol. A secondary product of the process is carbon dioxide, which is released gradually as the yeast eats the sugar.
  5. Place the tub on top of the dog bowls. Dr. Wang’s original method is to have two upturned dog bowls and one tub. The tub sits on top of the two dog bowls, and will continually produce carbon dioxide over the course of a night, about eight hours.
  6. Throughout the night, the bed bugs will try and reach the tub since they’re attracted to the CO2. They won’t be able to climb out of the well once they drop in. In the morning, you can collect them and kill them.

This method is entirely safe. It doesn’t create anywhere near the levels of CO2 that are required for it to be harmful. It’s roughly the equivalent of having two other people in the room with you, both breathing.

How to Trap Bed Bugs with Tape

There are two ways to trap bed bugs with tape. The first is to use double-sided tape, and the second is to use regular tape. Both can be effective.

Do Bed Bugs Stick to Tape?

Bed bugs can stick to the tape, although they will typically avoid walking over it. Most insects have an in-built capability to search out the quickest and easiest way they can take to their destination.

If they encounter tape on their travels, they’ll turn back and try a different way. However, if they are desperate enough, then they might try walking across the tape.

As for whether they’ll stick to the tape, the jury’s out. Some bed bugs get trapped, whereas others manage to peel themselves off. If you do try it, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work as well as you might hope.

how fast do bed bug traps work?

Can Bed Bugs Climb Tape?

The fact that bed bugs don’t stick to tape actually doesn’t matter all that much. That’s because bed bugs struggle to climb the smooth side of the tape, too.

This hasn’t been studied extensively, not by real scientists anyway. There are plenty of videos online that demonstrate how bed bugs struggle to climb smooth surfaces.

The problem is that they can’t get any good footholds to pull themselves up. Metal and wood bed frames usually have ridges, pits, and dents that bed bugs can use to climb. But plastic tape is entirely smooth.

Trapping Bed Bugs with Tape

If you want to stop bed bugs reaching you with tape, it’s easy. Here’s how, step by step:

  1. Pick your tape. You should pick a high-quality tape. Your first option is packing tape, which is usually very smooth on one side. You could also pick double-sided tape, which would have the double effect of catching bed bugs that crawl across it. If you like, pick a clear tape so that it doesn’t look bad when you use it.
  2. Tape the legs of your bed. Take the tape and wrap it around each of the legs of your bed. Use enough to wrap around each leg several times.
  3. Tape up any cracks that they hide in. The point of this is to stop the bed bugs from spreading, either into or out of your room.
  4. Check the tape each night. Tape has a bad habit of not working on metal or wood. If you can’t afford a tape that sticks to your bed frame, you’ll have to check it often to make sure it’s still in place.

If you’d like to trap the bed bugs in an interceptor using tape, there’s not much point. Just use one that you bought as directed rather than trying to make it any better with tape.

Should You Use Tape to Trap Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs will do almost anything to avoid walking over the tape. If you get the chance, you can experiment with one and see for yourself. If they can find a way around it, they will.

Repelling bed bugs encourages them to spread. If a bed bug can’t find its way to you, then it’ll try living somewhere else. It might head to the living room couch, or into your wardrobe.

Rather than using tape, you should use a lure or interceptor. These don’t deter bed bugs from trying to reach you, they stop them from being able to.

Should You Use Traps to Catch Bed Bugs?

There are two problems with traps. The first is that they encourage bed bugs to find a way around them. If there are traps around the feet of your bed, then bed bugs will try to:

  • Climb onto the blanket, if it’s touching the floor.
  • Climb up the walls to get to the headboard, and crawl down onto you.
  • Hide elsewhere in the house, waiting for you to sit or sleep on the couch, for example.

Bed bugs are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for. They can figure out ways around traps that you may not have even dreamed of. And as we pointed out above, tropical bed bugs can sometimes climb out of traps anyway.

To be clear, using traps is a good idea, but only in conjunction with other control methods. Laundering and drying, pesticides, and natural sprays are all effective ways to kill bed bugs. But for monitoring infestations and preventing them before they get too bad, traps are a good option.