Hacking Together A Bedbug Exterminator

We’ve seen so many stories in the news about the growing plague of bedbugs. It kind of infuriates us because the spin of these “news” pieces is always that we’re going to have to live with these insects and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. Bullcorn! [Ed Nisley] was dealt a bum hand in the form of a bedbug infestation but instead of losing his mind he used it to get himself out of the mess. One of the steps in the dis-insecting process was to develop a bedbug killing box that raises the contents above the kill temperature for the pests. He built an insulated chamber, with a grate to raise the target material off the bottom and allow for heat exchange around all edges of the item. Light bulb combinations of 60, 100, and 120 Watts were tested along with a fan for air circulation. He graphed the results and plans to use what he learned to build a more efficient heater for the box.

But the hot box isn’t his only defense. His household developed barriers, blocking the insects by height or with a sticky zone. Check out the collection of his bedbug posts and stop being afraid of these things! We can fight back and we can do it using common items and ingenuity.

[Thanks Steven]

57 thoughts on “Hacking Together A Bedbug Exterminator

  1. @ferdi

    Bed bugs have nothing to do with clean or dirty. They don’t live on dust, they live on blood. Even apartments in nice neighborhoods can contract bed bugs. It’s a problem in SF because it doesn’t get cold enough here to kill them in the winter.

    And I can’t help but think, wouldn’t a waterless steamer be more effective? That way you can kill both the bugs and the eggs instead of relying on the bugs to go into the box (which won’t stop them from laying eggs first).

  2. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact you live on a entirely different side of the ocean. The reason it s a problem for some is because the insects latch on and spread they don’t spontaneous come into existence. Their is no reason to take a post about a perfectly good hack/creation and try to turn it into a subtle insult. AWAY WITH YOU TROLL!

  3. Ferdi

    I’m from an area that hasn’t seen a bedbug in 40 years, now they are everywhere. Showing your idiotic anti-American bias by making an ignorant and inflammatory comment only makes you appear a fool.Bedbugs were almost no-existent in the US until about 10 years ago when they were re-introduced by travelers from EUROPE! Yes EUROPE! So take your moronic comments and place them where the sun doesn’t shine.

    As an entomologist with 30 years experience developing insect control procedures for hotels, I know how difficult they are to get rid of. Modern organophosphate insecticides will not harm a bedbug and they are just as likely to invade a clean home as a dirty one. They are experts at hiding need very little food(you!) and reproduce rapidly.

    DDT was used in the past and had practically eliminated them from North America. As this chemical was banned we have limited options.

    1. Thank you for that ! I can’t stand an ignorant person . I’m not a dirty person but do have four daughter who attend public school. I can’t control what comes in with them . Now that we have the bed bugs and caught them soon , I will definitely be changing our habits . More washing and drying of backpacks that’s for sure ! This has been a nightmare . To think people honestly think your a dirty person because you have them just upsets me ! So thank you for saying this you couldn’t of said it any better !

  4. Heat isn’t the only way to kill bedbugs. Cold will work as well. A friend of mine stuck all her belongings in a powerful chest freezer before moving them into her new house. Each method would be suitable for different materials.

  5. My wife and I had bed bugs a year or so ago. If you have them, its the worst hell you can imagine. You are basically powerless to stop them completely, and eventually end up shelling out thousands for the pro’s to come do a mediocre job. I welcome anyones advice that has a DIY way to kill them. Or DDT being legal again would be nice…

  6. I want to correct myself. I meant modern NON-organophosphate pesticides.

    Organophosphates are the only effective modern pest control chemicals, unfortunately you can’t buy them commercially anymore and need a license.

    My supply of Diazinon(purchased before 2004) I hold dearly for I’m not an exterminator by trade, I only consult.

    Scour your granpa’s garage you may find gold!

  7. @Hirudinea
    They already do that in some places, but usually it’s more time/cost effective to spray pesticides.

    That said, I wonder if any studies have been done on bedbugs and common chemicals like (Hydrogen Peroxide)H2O2/(Acetic Acid)CH3COOH/ (Paracetic acid)CH3CO3H /(Ethanol)EtOH… These kill most bugs and are pretty harmless to humans. Curious if you can just set up a “trap” with this.

  8. Nice hack. As soon I seen this I think of a microwave version but then I realize that there are metals in the luggage. For Non-metal objects I think Microwave would work better and faster. ZAP!

  9. I can see two problems with using a microwave to kill bedbugs.

    For one, small bugs can actually hide between the standing waves inside of a microwave, thus narrowly avoiding getting heated. Try sticking a fly or something in a microwave and you’ll likely see it land on a wall and stand still.

    For two, microwaves act the strongest on watery/fatty items, leaving stuff like plastics mostly untouched. If you were to place something like a dry shirt in the microwave I don’t believe it would heat up very well. So the bugs might not even be heated to death by the material they’re hiding in.

    All in all I think it would be more reliable to use a traditional resistive heating system like in the article.

  10. I’ve done some experiments with insects and CO2. It knocks them out in seconds of exposure, and a few minutes should be enough for certain death. I’m not quite sure about eggs though. Surely they require O2, but they might fall into a dormancy where they can sustain greater extremes.

    If it is effective on eggs, it should be very simple to wrap up a mattress and fumigate them. Be sure to open a window so you don’t asphyxiate yourself.

  11. Sulfuryl fluoride is the most common commercially used fumigant, it is not available without a licence in most states however.

    Methyl chloride should not be used as it depletes the ozone layer and will impart a smell to fabric.
    Both chemicals can be hazardous to people and pets.

    Leaving your luggage in a hot trunk in the sun here in Florida is quite effective. I normally leave my luggage for at least TWO days just to be sure. The temperature in my black car’s trunk easily reaches 140F, more than enough to kill them. The reason BB die from this is due to dehydration. A clothes dryer will also kill bed bugs and their eggs effectively. While Cold will kill adult and larvae it may not kill BB eggs.

  12. Why not just check all your belongings through your local friendly TSA checkpoint? If they don’t find and confiscate all the bugs, they’ll zap them with x-rays and leak pictures of their bodies on the net. Problem solved America!

  13. Bed bugs did not come from Europe because like in America they were exterminated. Nobody knows were they came from. Popular opinion is that the eggs survived and after we stopped using DDT they just came back to life in forests and grass fields.

  14. I live in England and I lived in a block of flats many years back and we got bed bugs. We tried all manner of chemical and trap and nothing, I REPEAT, nothing stopped the little feckers. Eventually it got to a stage where you had to sleep in one piece suits with socks and gloves. There was no ridding these things. In the end, they were living in the spines of books, in the plugs of appliances, under the gaps in the skirting, in the furnishings, everywhere they could fit and they can go pretty flat in shape.

    Only choice we had was to move and leave everything behind.
    It also only takes one pregnant female to hide under the collar of your clothes and then for you to visit someone for them to spread like wild fire.

    Best bet to ridding these things is BURN the house out and claim on the insurance.
    Nothing, but NOTHING seems to kill them all completely, not even fumigation!

    If I ever found a single one in my home again, I would not hesistate to burn it to the ground!
    These things area a nightmare to live with.

    Good luck to anyone who gets them, I pitty you!

  15. I notice noone posted about diatomacious earth. — it’s essentially powdered silt/rock. Safe to people as a powder, extremely fine ‘hard sharp’ dust that you spread near the baseboards (where the little f#*krs hide). It’s so sharp that it cuts their crap exoskeletons, so they literally die of dehydration. Not poisonous and totally safe around kids and pets (unless your pets have exoskeletons).

    A bottle is a few dollars at a hardware store.

  16. Chicken eggs do contain an air sack, but it is not the primary source of oxygen. The shell is porous and the membrane is semipermeable, allowing the diffusion of oxygen and CO2. A bit of research reveals insect eggs are much the same, and do in fact require external oxygen to live.

    Aside from being an asphyxiant, CO2 is also toxic because it saturates the tracheole gas exchange site, preventing any present O2 from being absorbed while the concentration is high enough. Insects are especially susceptible because their respiratory system provides direct access at a cellular level instead of through lungs and haemoglobin.

    In short, bedbugs can’t hold their breath.

  17. Good use of dinosaur lights, they are about 90% efficient as a heat source. A hair dryer of the hose and hood type is the way to go. Try flea markets and Goodwill or grandma. They are usually 200-300 watt output. Thermostatic control would be nice, but the hair dryer is designed to not burn anything as long as the airflow is not impeded or fan inside fails. I found “carrion fuzzies” on the floor under the foam mattress and cooked them and anything else out. A plus was it restored the foam to fullness, so I do it every few months for cloud soft sleep. Never seen a bedbug but a brown stinkbug just pinged the light last night, sucked up in the vacuum it still stinks! I once saw a spider in the microwave at work, so I heated coffee water and watched it prepare to die on the web…nothing happened. And it was suspended away form the boundary zone where the waves have no energy. That’s why there is a tray above the bottom.

  18. DDT is BANNED in the USA. it is easy to get in mexico.

    What you do is import some yourself and use that to clean your own home of the insects.

    Luckily I even have a stash of Chlordane from before it was banned. I retreat the 2 foot wide swath around my home every 3 years and I have a solid “kill zone” that protected me from the termite infestation that took out the house that sits 10 feet away.

    The old stuff works, the loser environmentalists make us stop using the good stuff.

    DDT is safe to use if used right. Spraying it heavily into the air on everything like what was done with it is the cause of the problems with birds. Use of it once again inside homes is 100% safe but the tree huggers are too stupid to allow it back into use even for professionals.

  19. Jesus people, discussing bringing back DDT, which does NOT deteriorate and stays in the foodchain and is STILL in women’s breastmilk and is the reason why it’s a hard choice to pick breastfeeding over formula, and causes things like deformed children being born and cancer, all to get rid of a bug that does NOT spread diseases, that’s just beyond insane.

    Now I’m sure we can find a way to get rid of them if we have some chemist/biologist/engineer sit down and think for a sec, but no – advocating DDT is not the answer, that’s like spreading enriched plutonium over your floor as a fix.
    (And at one time in the 1800’s they actually sold radioactive drinks to ‘cure all’ so the parallel I draw is rather spot on.)

  20. Except, bedbugs showed resistance to DDT in the 1940s, and immunity in the 1950s. Professional exterminators stopped using DDT by the early 1960s — eradication was due to something other than DDT.

    Several studies show that every population of bedbugs on Earth now is highly resistant, and many completely immune to DDT.

  21. Nth-ing Dry ice/CO2

    instead of building a hot box, I could toss my suitcase in a 6 mil heavy duty trash bag, suck 90% of the air out, and inflate with the CO2 tank I use for my welder (airsoft, salt water fish tank, soda maker, or a co2 fire extinguisher held upside-down)

    You need a tank of co2, or you need to buy a block of dry ice at the grocery store (about $1.09/lb around here)

  22. @Hirudinea There are companies which do the whole house/apartment heat treating. I got it once in an apartment of mine and the landlord brought in a company which uses a bunch of big propane heaters pumping hot air in through the windows to heat the entire apartment to 140F for several hours.

  23. i’m surprised no one’s made a ‘hot-box’ joke yet

    i wonder if you could use a similar thing that is often used to fight cockroaches, either boric acid (drys them out) or some chemical that keeps the young from becoming adult (stops molting process) and therefore can’t reproduce
    there may be some insectophage or bacteria that would infect the insect but it could be hard to find and/or also effect humans

  24. Thats why I breed specially trained killer wasps. No bed bug can hide (or is immune) to my killer wasps. Of course now I have sort of a wasp problem – but I’m working with a monkey breeder friend of mine to solve that.

  25. diatomacious earth is the bee’s knees for killing grouind hugging bugs like fleas, cockroaches and the like. Bloody effective. A bit hard on the vacuum cleaner later.

    Unable to ask for it at a store? No problem! You can create something very similar by purchasing a $5 sheet of drywall (or a broken scrap from any building site) and sanding it. Nasty, so wear a mask or do it outside.

    Drywall dust is almost but not quite the same thing. I suppose that if you can lay hands on some chinese-made hydrogen sulfide impregnated drywall, you’d get even faster results. Anyway, having done remodeling in five countries, I have accidentally killed a lot of insects. And bottled beer.

    Wasp killers are pretty fun to make, btw – throw some beer, beer and bread, bits of meat, doctor pepper – practically anything, really, from booze to bratwurst into a jar/bottle/container and then make a cone and set it inverted on top.

    On a wasp and hornet infested camping trip we made about 30 of these from water bottles using beer and meat as baits, and within 2 hours we were practically wasp free – which lasted for the weekend. It was almost scary how fast we cleared the place out for about a 1/2 mile radius. It was great.

  26. Want to experience them? When you get off the tunnel, ask the helpful looking indian girl[s] who offer tourist rooms for accommodations “off the record” – if you’re friendly and persistent, and willing to pay cash, you can stay in a bed sit that her uncle/friend/relative owns and save about 5% off the going rate.

    Then you can experience a 1 room bed sit in a converted walkup with shag carpet that dates to circa 1967 and a room that has been used as a lock efficiency test/british biting-insect refuge for a couple decades.

    The bugs weren’t voracious – we walked off with only a few nibbles. They were probably too weak from eating the carpets to do much damage. In general, low end english hotels self exterminate all manner of pest, and provide a useful source of organ donation.

  27. Hackius

    Recent DNA tests show the current infestation in NY(which has spread rapidly to other cities in the US and Canada) are of the same line as those found in hotel infestations in Turkey and the Netherlands in the late 90’s They spread via luggage and a statistical plot of the spread shows areas near international airports with flights to Europe were the first areas to be hit.(this was a study of hotel infestation issues I helped conduct in 2002)

    I only brought it up as a response to the first posters ill informed rant.

    Where they came from is irrelevant to anyone but an Etymologist like myself who uses this information to track the ability of an insect to spread and adapt.

    Again I will say bedbugs are not a result of a dirty home or poor hygiene. They also don’t distinguish between rich and poor, liberal or conservative and I have never seen a Bed Bug comment on the Israeli Palestinian issue in the BBC HYS section. If you have warm blood in your veins and sleep indoors you are susceptible to BB infestation.

  28. I had one or two decades ago before the current craze.

    I got some beef blood, mixed it with garden pesticide, and put the mix out in several low bowls around the apt. THen I slept somewhere else (ahem) for a few days. I found them laying in the bloody goop when I got back and never had another problem.

  29. Through bizarre coincidence, a week after reading this post and his site I was attacked. It took a few days to realize what they were, I thought it was a rash. I popped six cans of bedbug killer fogger’s in the house, threw out my pillow, and washed and dried everything. No more bites! It took at most two hours. It seems they are easier to kill than his site would lead you to believe.

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