Until it was banned in 1972, the pesticide DDT helped keep bedbugs in check. Increased international travel and other modern phenomena have contributed to a resurgence of the apple-seed-size insects, which feed on human blood. Outbreaks have hit several U.S. cities. In New York, stores including Niketown and Victoria's Secret have closed temporarily because of infestations. The pests are now attracting attention from scientists and entrepreneurs. On Sept. 21 and 22, the experts showed off their anti-insect weapons at the first-ever North American BedBug Summit in Chicago.
The Bed Moat
($18.99 for a four-pack) - The moats sit beneath furniture and trap bedbugs as they try to climb up or down the legs. Insects remain alive after being caught and must be discarded. The Bed Moat's inventors suggest coating the trap with cornstarch, which dehydrates and immobilizes the pests.
Heat Assault 500X
($1,500 per eight-hour treatment) - The 6,000-pound Heat Assault is a towable heating unit. It warms up propylene glycol, a colorless, odorless liquid. Once vaporized, the gas is pumped inside an infested building. The 120F, sauna-like heat kills bedbugs within a few hours by cracking their exoskeletons.
($400-$800 per two-hour treatment) - Cryonite is frozen CO2, which flash-freezes bedbugs and kills them almost instantly. A device that looks like a cross between a fire extinguisher and a vacuum cleaner disperses the cryonite. A bendable hose makes it easy to get underneath furniture and other hard-to-reach places.
($130 for a queen-size cover) - The Protect-a-Bed snugly covers a bedbug-infested mattress, locking the bloodsuckers within its bite-proof enclosure. The mattress can continue to be used while the bedbugs starve to death, a slow process that can take up to a year.
(Less than $20) - For a do-it-yourself bedbug trap, wrap the outside of a dog food bowl with fabric. Turn it upside down, put talc inside the rim, and put dry ice on top of the contraption. Dry ice is made of the same molecule as human exhalation—carbon dioxide. That lures the bugs, which crawl up the fabric, over the rim, and get stuck in the talc.
Sergeant Jack Bauer
($350 per visit) - Jack Bauer—named after Kiefer Sutherland's character on the TV show 24—is one of three dog sleuths at Detective Bed Bug in Chicago. The dogs have been trained to sniff out bedbugs and can search a two-bedroom apartment in about five minutes. Their work can confirm an infestation and help exterminators better target their efforts.