Monday, December 18, 2006

How to isolate your bed

Once you discover that you have bedbugs, the first thing to do is to isolate your bed. Bedbugs do come out during the day, but most of time they bite you in the night when you are sleeping. There are a few major benefits of isolating your bed:

1. As I mentioned before, this is the most effective way of controlling their population.

2. Bedbugs cause much more damage to our mental health than physical health. Keeping them away from your bed will ensure you better sleep, reduce your anxiety, and give you the energy needed to fight the war against them.

3. Without food and nutrition, they will be more vulnerable to insecticides.

There are some good web sites that offer great tips on how to isolate your bed. Here are a few:

  • The bedbug war : step-by-step instruction and photos.
  • The bedbug blog : one of the most popular sites, but isn't updated too often now.
  • Bedbugger : another popular site, tons of useful and up-to-date information.
  • Wikipedia: a free encyclopedia, relatively more reliable and scientific information.
  • Yahoo Bedbugger Group: a support group including many experienced warriors and some entomologists and pest control experts.
I won't go through every detail but will rather provide some brief explanation and then add a few more points based on my own experience. A picture is worth a thousand words, for those of you who don't like to do all the readings, I made a picture that would give you a quick start. All the parts are actually 3D models. Feel free to use, modify or distribute it for non-commercial purpose.

click the image to enlarge

The basic idea of "isolating your bed" is to have as few contact points between the bed and adjacent objects as possible, and then create barriers at the contact points.

To have minimal contact points, you need to:

Pull the bed away from the walls so that your bed, pillow, blanket and sheet won't touch the walls.

Raise the bed with bed riser so that your blanket and sheet won't touch the floor. But I prefer to have a bigger bed instead.

Eliminate the clutter under the bed to ensure that nothing touches the bed.

Next, you need to create some kind of barriers on the bed legs. Here are a few options:

Place the bed legs in plastic or metal containers, than wrap carpet tape or sticky fly tape around the container. The advantage of doing this is that it won't cause any damage and mess to the bed legs.

Wrap carpet tape directly around the bed legs. I personally wouldn't recommend this, since once you have dust on the tape or accidentally kick the tape a few times, they won't be as sticky any more and need to be replaced. But it's very difficult to peel them off and will likely cause damage to the paint if you have metal frame. Carpet tape is the strongest that I could find. I wouldn't use masking tape or duct tape.

An alternative to the above is to use single sided carpet tape, with the sticky side out, then have scotch tape on both ends so that the bedbugs won't crawl under the carpet tape.

Coat the bed legs with Vaseline. This method was used in the old days and is my favorite since it won't cause any damage and is easy to clean up.

Then, you need to isolate the mattress, the box spring, the pillow, and the blanket:

Wash and dry the pillow and blanket on hot setting.

Use zippered cover for everything and tape the zipper, use light colored covers so that it's easier to spot the bedbugs, and leave the mattress cover on for at least one and a half years.

Vinyl mattress covers are difficult to grip and are not ideal place for the bed bugs to lay eggs, but are easy to tear/rip. I prefer fabric ones. Some people use both.

Treat the mattress and the box spring with chemical if necessary. The first instars are only 1mm long so it's easy to miss one or two.

One last thing that people don't pay much attention to and is rarely mentioned on any web site is caulking. Even if you have metal bed frame, there are still hiding places. You need to caulk all the joints of the bed frame and the slats if you have them, again remember the first instars are only 1mm long. Lie on your back on the floor or turn the bed frame upside down, bed bugs tend to go under than over. Use latex caulking instead of silicone if you need to disassemble the bed in the future, since silicone is difficult to remove. I'll write more on caulking in the future.

Also, if you are planning to replace your bed, get a metal frame. It's more difficult to climb and has less hiding places than wood frame. To quarantine a protected bed, make sure that no kids and pets are allowed in the bed during the day, and store clean clothes in the bed during the day and take a shower before entering the bed.

If after all these steps you still get bitten. It could be due to one of these reasons:

1. Barriers will prevent bedbugs from getting into your bed, but will not kill the ones that are already in your bed. You might have missed a few joints or didn't caulk correctly, or caulking might have shrunk, so double check and apply chemical if necessary.

2. Your pillow, blanket, or sheet touched the wall or the floor.

3. There was a tear in the mattress cover, the cover wasn't taped correctly or the tape peeled off.

4. The bedbugs crawled onto the ceiling and dropped to your bed.

The first three causes are easy to deal with. The most difficult one is the last one, I will write more on this next time. Thanks to nobugsonme, the author of Bedbugger for reminding me to add #3 cause.

Finally, Diatomaceous Earth (DE) can be dusted around the bed for extra safety, and along the baseboard so that any bedbugs that climb the walls will eventually die. Be sure to use food grade DE (amorphous silica) instead of swimming pool DE (crystalline silica) and do wear a mask. According to Wikipedia, crystalline silica poses inhalation hazard because it can cause silicosis. Amorphous silica can cause dusty lungs, but does not carry the same degree of risk as crystalline silica does since it contains very low percentages of crystalline silica.

(revised on Jan 20, 2007) Bedbugs do come out during the day, especially when they are hungry or after an insecticide is applied. The principle is the same for how to protect yourself during the day, so I won't have a separate post for that. They want to be as close to you as possible, so the next choice after the bed would be the chair and the desk (I wouldn't use upholstered furniture until the bedbugs are gone). Caulk the joints to make sure there's no hiding places for them, and then create barriers on the chair/desk legs with vaseline or tape. If the infestation is heavy, I wouldn't even set my feet on the floor while I am at the computer, but would rather put them on a stool, which is also protected by vaseline or tape.


Blogger Bugalina said...

Frank, This is excellent advice..I think the graphics are very helpful....Thank you....Bugalina

9:27 AM  
Blogger said...

I agree that your advice is very good but I would suggest the use of a professional pest control operator for the treatment of bed bugs. Many pests can be easily controlled without professionals, bed bugs are not one of those pests.

not a PCO

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great and thorough advice.

One other additional measure, which I've found works very well is to wrap double-stick carpet tape along the side of the mattress over a fitted sheet.

This will trap any bugs that are trying to get to you or hide after feeding from you.

If you're reading this, good luck.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great info.

Hopefully it will work. I sealed my bed with stretch film and tape.

Still see the bed bugs at day light. Yeah, your are right. They do come out at day. Saw one and catch them in a cup.

They are terrible. They keep coming back. Did laundry. Sprayed whole room with RAID.

White powder at my room.

I still feel that they are crawling my body.

11:53 PM  
Blogger mannu said...

Thanks for the wonderful information regarding isolating bed. I am very much agreed with benefits of having this post.

4:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hmm... Well, we just spent $250 to have a PCO come and spray 3 times over the course of a month. I guess that without doing so, the infestation might be much worse than it is, but we're definitely still infested. As he says in his later blog posts, the level of resistance is quite high.

Also, the last time he sprayed, I was here getting ready to leave for work and saw where he was spraying. Hardly a thorough job. Emotionally and financially taxing...

The next step is heating everything...

Good luck everyone!

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that is true but true is also that I have used up for killing them bedbugs 12 galons of pesticide for 5 or 6 times reaccurance..My house looked like after war world III but finally I think eliminated them I guess in 99%...

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you do if you have a captain's bed? I noticed nymphs running across the top of the bed inspite of having encased the mattress, including a tempurpedic topper, in a bed bug mattress protector and sealing the zipper with duct and packing tape. So I first put double-faced carpet tape around the bed on the floor, but I still saw the bugs. So I put the double-faced carpet tape around the top of the bed, under the mattress. But I was always getting stuck on the duct tape. So then I put a clear plastic painter's drop cloth over the captain's bed and duct taped it to the vinyl floor. I noticed fewer and fewer bugs. So I concluded they must have been hiding in the captain bed, even after I first inspected it and treated it with rubbing alcohol and Bedlam. (Didn't know about caulking or sealing cracks.) But the bugs started showing up on the ceilings, walls, floors, and on top of the plastic tubs, and plastic bags. Since then the apartment has been treated professionally for at least a 10th time and they removed the plastic over the captain's bed and treated the captain's bed. Now just about a month later, I found a live bed bug nymph on my mattress and noticed a bunch of bites on my legs just before that. I can't afford to trash the captain's bed and buy a new frame and box spring because I've already put out almost $4000 in laundering, dry cleaning, buying trash bags, space bags, plastic tubs, a new HEPA vacuum cleaner, paying for 2 room storage, and medical and legal expenses related to this. I am a renter and the landlord is treating the problem apt. by apt. and is claiming they have corrected it. Wouldn't it be great if the landlord paid for a new metal bed frame and box spring and cover? Suggestions please. Guess I need to put the captain's bed back in plastic until months after we know they are gone. Anybody else out there have a captain's bed? And of course, the drawers were emptied and are still empty and the bed is away from the wall and the sheets and blankets off the floor and bed frame.

4:47 PM  

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