NotSoSnug: killing bed bugs one by one

by nobugsonme on November 25, 2007 · 6 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, how to get rid of bed bugs, pest control

A newbite named NotSoSnug has gotten our attention in the forums with his unique approach to his bed bug situation.

This is NotSoSnug’s comparison of a nymph and adult bed bug (perhaps one of our entomologist friends could confirm the life stage of the nymph for us?)


Bugz4_F posted with permission of NotSoSnug

After having the landlord get a pest control operator (PCO) in to treat his apartment for bed bugs, NotSoSnug did not simply go about his business while the bed bugs died. Yes, he did stick around and sleep on his air mattress, on a tarp surrounded by double-sided tape. (A common strategy, I am nevertheless skeptical about how often people trap bed bugs this way.) Just as others do, he kept sleeping in his room, if not in the actual bed.

NotSoSnug went further, though. He made it his personal mission to wake up every two hours and hunt bed bugs with a red light, which he informed us does not disturb them as a normal light would.

Here’s what NotSoSnug had to say about his methods:

I sleep on a tile floor isolated by tape/vaseline about two feet from my retracted murphy bed. The bed when retracted looks like a big cedar tongue in groove closet against the gyprock wall in my bachelor suite. This is their harbourage, hopefully their only one as there is alot of tongue in groove in this place and it all wasn’t treated! So far I’ve only noticed activity associated with the treated murphy bed and one treated lounge chair. I am unsure but I may have received a bite from an isolated, untreated, upholstered computer chair.

Yes: murphy bed, built into a wooden tongue-in-groove structure: are you getting worried? This is, unfortunately, a bed bug paradise.

Even with the isolation I am not sleeping well, partly out of anxiety and partly because I am incessantly curious. So I wake up at intervals all night. At first I was using my white LED camping light when they were limited mostly to being active in early morning before treatment and before they got really hungry from my isolation. But I could see the white light alarmed the critters and I had to be furtive with it. Even so I caught 25 one night with the white light a few days before treatment! Then I realized from reading somewhere a red light might work and I had my red LED tail light from my bike. So out it came and me and my trusty sticky tape were ready.

The red light does not alarm them but movement does. I have to lay still on my air mattress and sweep the murphy bed with the red light to spot them. They may be moving or still. If I sneak slowly I can tape them before they realize I’m upon them. I use a piece of 2″x2″ sticky packing tape cut to size. Since I don’t have to move far it’s not hard to sneak up on them even with their speed. Sometimes I have to wait until they have crawled away from a groove or crack sufficiently so I can nab them. Sometimes I can clumsily and groggily nab them half into a crack. I’ve nabbed 2nd instar nymphs up to adults this way. Some 1st instar nymphs were inadvertently retrieved during taping the older bugz as well.

Any ones I’ve seen I’ve nabbed, with patience. Even if they disappear for a bit they inevitably come out as they are looking for a meal and unwilling to leave with a fresh bod nearby.

I’ve noted that they seem unwilling to venture out on the tile preferring to lurk on the wood. I’ve only caught very few out on tile, two adults and two nymphs before treatment and since treatment I’ve only seen two adults venture onto the tile, and then only close to furniture. And I’ve only seen 2 (adults) out during the day, on the floor, pre-treatment and none on any walls or the kitchen or bathroom or closets. Of course the 1st instars are virtually invisible to me on any surface so I may have missed some. But I am thankful for having the tile, it makes looking for them easier and seems to limit their excursions somewhat!

I’ll add that it embarasses me I didn’t notice this many critters in the months preceeding my discovery. I had bites but thought it was my seasonal excema. I wonder that so many bugs have remained limited to one area. Lots of nooks and crannies I guess.

NotSoSnug had bed bug bite reactions for two months before discovering the problem. There are clearly a lot of bed bugs here. This is the tally for the bed bug hunting he has done after treatment began on November 11th:

Date/Number of Active Insects Caught
Mon. Nov 12 – 2
Thurs. Nov 15 – 25
Fri. Nov 16 – 2
Sat. Nov 17 – 7
Sun. Nov 18 – 1
Mon. Nov 19 – 12
Tues. Nov 20 to Nov 23 Free from visible activity so far

In an email, NotSoSnug mentioned only one dead bed bug was found in the last five days. It is important to note that there were probably many more bed bugs (these are just the ones NotSoSnug caught while on his regular “hunts”) and there are likely still bed bugs there now. Bed bugs take 3-10 minutes to feed, from what we understand, and anyone getting some shut-eye, even if it’s once an hour or two, will miss some of the action. This surely represents only a sampling of the real total population. And some of these bed bugs likely crossed pesticide and would have died anyway, but no doubt at least some of them would not have.

Nevertheless, I thought this was an interesting experiment, and even if this sampling represents a wider population, it gives us some idea of the arc of the treatment’s effectiveness. A downward-moving number is a very good thing.

NotSoSnug caught and categorized the bed bugs according to when he found them, then scanned the results.

And here is NotSoSnug’s pictorial record of his “finds” (you can click on the photos and then choose the largest size for better viewing):


Bugz5_FE posted with permission of NotSoSnug


Bugz6_FE posted with permission of NotSoSnug.


Bugs7_FE posted with permission of NotSoSnug.

This is one way that someone with no evidence of bed bugs could obtain proof they were being bitten by bed bugs, for their landlord or PCO. It’s surprising how often people and their PCOs have trouble finding a bug, and the red light strategy seems promising. Remember that if you have a smaller infestation, it could take longer to find a sample.

I don’t encourage others to try and do this long-term, to the degree NotSoSnug has. Sleep is hard enough to come by when you have bed bugs, and waking at 1-2 hour intervals is murder on your system. I do think we can learn from this experiement, though. I also hope NotSoSnug gets some sleep.

The downside of NotSoSnug’s story is that his landlord is not willing to do a follow-up treatment, so clearly necessary, with a strong infestation like this. And NotSoSnug is going to be moving, a daunting prospect with bed bugs. We wish him well.

You can read the forum thread where NotSoSnug originally posted his story here. And you can look at his flickr collection here.

1 lieutenantdan November 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I am very impressed.

2 nobugsonme November 26, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Dan, I knew you would be!

3 NotSoSnug November 27, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Actually, my air mattress is lying right on the treated ceramic tile floor, surrounded by a double side tape and vaseline moat. I have no tarp or plastic under me. I never thought of this as an experiment but I suppose it may be; in my desperation and admitted curiosity, I just reacted to regain some control in my life. Call it the aggravated naturalist in me.

4 kraystone November 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Wow, that was quite a lot of bugs!!!


5 hopelessnomo November 27, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Well done, NSN. I think your story will help many people. Thanks.

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