It’s hard to convey the paranoia we flea-marketing, curb-side-spotting, Craigslisting folk feel about bedbugs—with good reason. Now is prime paranoia time: we’re having too many guests over (at various stages of cleanliness), cranking up our heaters and (if we’re lucky) signing January 1st leases. Not only are the bugs a major itch in the butt, but they can end up costing a butt-load too. Most exterminators will try to charge between $50 and $200 to inspect your place (or they’ll do it free and work their up-sell). So, whether you’re looking at new places to live or suspicious of your unwashed neighbors, it’s definitely worth $15 to try out the latest DIY detection system (courtesy of Wired Magazine), before calling in the pricey pros.
The low-budget detection device is the brainchild of Rutgers University’s Wan-Tien Tsai, and the highly scientific instrument requires a 1/3 gallon insulated jug (check camping and sporting stores), a plastic cat food dish, some paper and talcum powder and 2.5 pounds of dry ice. Put the ice in the jug, the jug in the dish, and make a paper entry ramp up into the talcum-coated dish. The bugs will flock.
The little blood suckers are attracted to higher temperatures, which usually moves them toward a 98.6 degree feast (heat sources are a great place to check for the first sign of infestation, as are sofas, beds, and electrical outlets). But with brains the size of a speck, bedbugs are also instinctively drawn to another indication of animals: carbon dioxide.
Hence, the dry ice. The stuff is just solid carbon dioxide, which “melts” into its gaseous form (all right, Dr. Science, the process is called ‘sublimation’). The parasites are drawn toward the gas, and get caught in the cat food dish (thanks, talcum powder). This patent-not-pending design, which usually lasts about 11 hours (at room temperature), has proven to be as or more effective than professional kits, the Wired article says.
The trickiest part of the whole thing might be getting your hands on the dry ice, as not all supermarkets carry it. Ice cream makers use it, so try persuading your nearby confectioner to let you in on their stock. You also can order from online suppliers like this. Or, you can schlep down McDonald Avenue and buy some from New York Ice Cream Co. (1241 McDonald Ave., at Ave. J) for $10.
And if the test is positive? Life isn’t over—the best thing you could have done was find out ASAP.
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