Bed bugs or not? Introducing the Bed Bug Beacon

by nobugsonme on March 12, 2010 · 7 comments

in bed bug detection, bed bug monitors, bed bugs

Got bed bugs?  Sometimes it can be hard to tell, but determining whether you have them may be getting easier. The Bed Bug Beacon is an inexpensive active bed bug monitor for at-home use. It looks like David James, creator of the Packtite, has come up with another winner.  Like the DIY dry ice monitor developed by Changlu Wang at Rutgers, it uses CO2 to detect bed bugs, but without all the dry ice hassle.

Changlu Wang’s DIY dry ice monitor is an excellent development in bed bug detection, but there were some reasons why it may not be a great tool for everyone who is trying to figure out if they have bed bugs.

First, you have to properly locate all the materials. Dry ice is the main challenge, and buying it is not easy, convenient or cheap, as some forum users discovered. In this forum thread, user New Blood reported s/he was only able to find dry ice for sale in quantities of 10 lbs. for $20.  Even if dry ice is found in ideal quantities of 3 lb. a day (at $2 a lb.), and purchased every evening, New Blood estimated it would cost around $40 a week just for the dry ice.  Therefore, initial setup of the DIY dry ice monitor would take it well over $50 for the first week’s use.  And you have to shop for dry ice every evening.

Second, the DIY monitor requires users to do research and carefully follow directions. The most important of which concern dry ice, which is dangerous to handle.

Like the DIY dry ice monitor, the new Bed Bug Beacon uses CO2 to detect bed bugs, and gives the DIY monitor a run for its money; the manufacturer says it will be priced under $50.    However, it uses pellets which are safer for the user, and easier and cheaper to obtain.  The Bed Bug Beacon is reusable and comes with enough supplies to last 2 weeks; refills cost about $10 for 3 weeks more monitoring.

In effect, it’s cheaper and easier than making your own DIY monitor with dry ice.  And in tests, David James found the Bed Bug Beacon to be as effective as the DIY monitor in side by side tests. (See video below for more on the trials.)

It’s important to remember, the purpose of this tool is detecting whether you have bed bugs, or still have them after treatment.  It is not a tool for controlling a bed bug population.  (Neither is the DIY dry ice monitor, though some of the press on it would have you thinking so.)

Remember also that active monitors like the Beacon are always going to be competing with a live human if placed in a room where a human is sleeping.  In this competition, the human has a good chance of winning.  Beacons can catch bed bugs in rooms where people sleep but they may be more effective and catch samples more quickly in lighter infestations if you leave them running when you’re sleeping somewhere else (for example, a weekend away) or in an unoccupied room.

(Passive monitors may be a good alternative in occupied rooms with lighter infestations.)

Click below to watch the promotional video with information on field trials.

Last updated 1/2019

1 someguy March 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Dry ice is not the only readily available source of carbon dioxide.

yeast + sugar + water in a vented container will produce CO2 (and alcohol) for at least 24 hrs, and the yeast will continue to produce CO2 for several days if ‘fed’ a sugar solution

vinegar + baking soda will also produce CO2, although this reaction is faster and would be more difficult to sustain over time.

2 DK March 23, 2010 at 9:02 pm

We are currently testing a new active trap that uses pheromones and CO2 – I will not reveal anything more about it. I don’t work for the company but they are testing it out in our house and in other places. It might be more affordable than the beacon – I don’t know. It seems more sophisticated than the beacon. We will see. (I have no idea if we have any BBs in our house still).

So, more help is on the way!

3 nobugsonme March 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Thanks, DK. We’re interested in whatever works.

4 nobugsonme March 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm


Yes, you’re right: CO2 can be produced in multiple ways. Before these active monitors (and the more expensive versions, and the DIY dry ice monitor plans) were available, we even passed on a pest pro’s recommendation: that you could place an activated Hot Hands-type handwarmer in the center of a glue trap. (It gives off CO2).

But like your ideas, the handwarmer monitor’s CO2 supply didn’t last long. They also did not have a great success rate, though some people did catch a sample this way. Perhaps they would have done better in a setup which is more like this, perhaps a dog bowl with talc inside to make it too slippery to leave. (I would not personally recommend the handwarmer idea at this point, with cheap and apparently effective alternatives around.)

The Bed Bug Beacon can run for at least 5 days initially (and contains enough refills to last three weeks). You have a much better chance at catching a sample if you’re running such a monitor for a longer period.

5 Lauren July 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

the ones I’ve bought don’t appear to be producing any gas the second time I used them. A new one produces bubbles when I mix everything, but after rinsing them out, as far as I can tell following all the directions exactly, they don’t produce any bubbles, even when I put the hose in water the next day.

What am I doing wrong?

6 nobugsonme July 25, 2010 at 12:22 am

Hi Lauren,

Others do seem to be having success after running the Bed Bug Beacon for a second week with a new set of supplies.

I have alerted David James, Bed Bug Beacon inventor and manufacturer, to your question and sent him a link to this comments thread. He has been very responsive to user questions in the past and I expect he will be responding via this page as soon as he can.

7 David James July 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

When you test the beacon for bubble production in a glass of water make sure of these two things.

1. Make sure the tube is near the top of the surface of the water level in the glass. If not, you will be fighting against the pressure of the water itself.

2. No matter when you mixed up the ingredients, give the water test at least 20-30 minutes to start making bubbles. if you just mixed it up, give it time, but also if it has been mixed and “running” for days, place it in water and still give that amount of time. if this doesn’t work for you Lauren, instant message me from the forums section.

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