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Written by A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional

What is a bed bug interceptor device?

A bed bug interceptor (also referred to as a ‘pitfall trap’ or ‘bed bug trap’) is basic in design but is actually one of the most useful devices for detecting and monitoring bed bug infestations.

These pitfall traps are inexpensive to buy and work 24/7 once they are placed under bed and furniture legs. Although bed bugs can climb various surfaces and will climb up your bed to feed, they are not good at climbing or gripping vertical, slippery surfaces, and bed bug traps are designed based on this inability.

These plastic devices are dish-shaped, double-cupped, and available in various sizes to fit under each bed leg or other furniture items and act as a barrier tray. 

Bed bug interceptor to trap bed bugs
Example of a bed bug interceptor

How do pitfall traps actually work?

Interceptor traps have an inner wall and an outer wall with a “moat” or “pitfall” in between. The outside wall is angled and has a rough surface so the bed bug can easily climb up and over.

The slick surface of the wall is what stops the bed bugs that have crawled over from other areas of your room from being able to reach the leg of your bed and climb up to feed on you.

And, as bed bugs cannot jump or fly, they won’t be able to get back out.

The trapped bugs also won’t be able to access the inner well where the bed leg is because of the sleek surface of the wall.

If you do see any in the inner well, they have climbed down from your bed or couch and are trapped, preventing them from infesting other places.

People often think the bed bugs in the inner cup have managed to climb up from the outer well, but this is not the case.

The great thing about these bed bug trap devices is that they need very little maintenance apart from occasionally removing any trapped bedbugs and cleaning the wells of debris and dust.

Are bed bug interceptors effective in trapping these pests?

Yes, they are effective, and they are an essential part of getting rid of bed bugs. They help you determine if you have the beginnings of an infestation, and they help you monitor the infestation over time.

Although interceptors work well, they should be used as part of the overall treatment process and not just on their own as they do not kill the bed bugs, only trap them.

The other treatments include: 

  • washing and heat drying clothes and bedding 
  • clearing clutter from the room
  • using a steamer to kill the bed bugs with heat should be considered

Read our step-by-step guide on how to deal with bed bugs yourself.

How exactly are bed bug interceptors effective?

 There are numerous ways that these moat-style traps can you in the fight against bed bugs:

  • they help decrease the number of bites you would get from bed bugs coming from other areas of the room.
  • they require very little maintenance.
  • they trap the bugs, making it virtually impossible for them to escape.
  • research shows that bed bug interceptors are more effective at detecting bed bugs than visual inspections alone[1]
  • they can also help detect a low-level infestation when there are not that many to find.
  • Interceptors help reduce the need for insecticides as they trap the bugs and disrupt their lifecycle.

How do you use a bed bug interceptor tray?

Although these types of bed bug traps are passive monitors, they work by using you as the attractant, or lure, when you’re asleep as you breathe out CO2 and produce heat.

So, take a general look at how you install them.

Whichever brand of interceptor you buy, always read the instructions before you do anything.

  • First, remove all bedding and pillowcases and put them straight into the washer on a hot wash and then into the dryer for a MINIMUM of 30 minutes.

    Bed bug eggs are heat resistant up to 125ºF (51ºC), so it’s important the dryer is on the hottest setting available. You might find dead bed bugs on the lint screen afterward. 
  • Next, isolate your bed so it becomes an ‘island’ in the room. Pull the bed away from all walls and make sure the curtains, bedside tables, or anything else is not touching the bed.
  • Remove any dust ruffle skirts and other items that might touch the floor so the bed bugs cannot climb up.
  • Remove everything from under the bed. Anything left underneath will provide a bridge for these parasites to get onto your bed.
  • Place each bed leg or furniture post into the center well of an interceptor. These should also be used wherever people sleep or rest (couch, armchair, etc).
  • As the inner well of some interceptors is prone to cracking when used on carpet, place a flat disk or flat piece of wood underneath for support. 

    Alternatively, I recommend buying crack-resistant interceptors, such as the ClimbUp Insect Interceptor range. These are the most popular interceptors on the market and have undergone a redesign so they don’t crack and no longer need an application of talcum powder.

    Read as many online reviews as you can about the different devices available so you can get a good idea of which ones are sturdy and don’t break.

It’s really important to remember that all sheets and comforters are ALWAYS tucked in. Nothing should be hanging off the bed and touching the floor, which means no clothes, towels, etc. All electrical appliance cords should be unplugged from the wall to prevent creating a bridge to your bed.

Hungry bed bugs will be looking for any opportunity to get onto your bed and feed on you!

How do you clean these interception devices?

Regularly monitor and inspect (weekly is fine) each interceptor for cracks, bed bugs, dust, and debris build-up, which could provide the bugs with a way to escape the well.

Visually inspect the traps every couple of days if finding other signs of bed bugs.

If you need to remove an interceptor to clean it, be careful as live bed bugs may be in or on them.

Cleaning tips:

  • Carefully remove the interceptor from under the furniture leg.
  • In a container, wash the interceptor in soapy water and ensure all bed bugs are completely submerged. Carefully dispose of the soapy water in the toilet.
  • Flush the toilet once all the bugs have been removed from the interceptor.
  • Wipe inside and outside of the wells with a tissue and place the tissue in a plastic bag, seal it, and put it in the outside trash immediately.
  • If talc was used to line the interceptor, then reapply it. Alternatively, lightly apply some Cimexa or other insecticide dust, and replace it under the furniture legs.

How long should you leave the interceptors in place?

Do not remove the interceptors for a minimum of eight weeks, as it can take this long and even longer to get rid of an infestation, whether carried out by yourself or a pest control company.

You can leave them in place permanently just for the simple fact that you can check them periodically in case of any future bed bug infestations.  A lot of my customers leave them under each bed leg simply for peace of mind so they know there are no bed bugs.  

Leaving the traps indefinitely is a great idea, especially if you live in an apartment building, as bed bugs can find their way into nearby apartments, so these interception devices can help you monitor this.

Whatever you decide, do not remove them until you are sure you are no longer finding any of these blood-sucking bugs in the wells, and you are not seeing any signs of them anywhere. 

Points to remember about using interception cups for bed bugs

Always follow the instructions that are provided with your interceptors, but the above will generally apply.

Remember, these traps will only work in a room where someone sleeps or rests, as bed bugs are attracted to body heat and the carbon dioxide you breathe out.

If you think these traps are not working, check them for cracks, make sure there is no fluff or debris in them, and inspect your bed, as it’s likely there are still bed bugs hiding away in the bed. 

Overall, bed bug interceptors work and are effective if used together with other treatment processes. Although they can help detect an infestation and allow you to continually monitor for these unwanted pests, they can’t eradicate them.

If you think you might have the early stages of a bed bug problem, you can do your own pest control with our guide, or contact a pest control company that deals with bed bugs to take care of it for you, which is always the best option.