7 On Your Side tests BugZip bag

November 22, 2011 9:11:32 PM PST
We have a warning for anyone with travel plans -- beware of bed bugs. One of the fastest ways they can spread is by hitch-hiking, which means they go from hotel rooms, onto your luggage, and into your home. However, there is a new product designed to stop them and 7 On Your Side looks into it to see if it really works.

The number of bed bug complaints in California has increased 26-fold in the last five years. The largest number of incidents were reported in San Francisco and Alameda Counties.

"Bed bugs are a huge problem now worldwide. In the last 10 years, they've exploded," said Bill Donahue, who runs Sierra Research Labs in Modesto.

These mostly nocturnal creatures can't fly, they don't carry disease, yet the bloodsucking insects strike fear in most people who encounter them. A San Jose couple sent us pictures of one inch welts on their bodies after being bitten at a motel in Arizona. One year later, they are still too upset to talk about it.

The California Department of Public Health tells us the number of bedbug reports in San Francisco grew from 215 in 2005 to 567 in 2010. Alameda County had just 25 incidents reported in 2005, but more than nine times that amount in 2010 -- 234.

"Bed bugs are just hitch hikers, so wherever they come from an infested area, whether it's on luggage or in somebody's purse or backpack, you can potentially transport that bed bug to another location," said Donahue.

The BugZip was developed to keep that from happening. We wanted to see for ourselves if BugZip works. The independent Sierra Research Labs put both luggage and clothing inside the BugZips. The researchers took special care in checking the zippers.

"If they find an entry point, say a missing tooth in one of the zippers, they might be inclined to walk through that and be able to enter through that," said Michael Donahue from Sierra Research Labs.

The researchers discover the zipper on one of the bags is broken. This is actually the second defective bag we found.

"It's been a little of the feedback is the zipper has kinked a little bit around the corners and might cause problems. Certainly if anybody has problems, the company replaces them no questions asked," said Adam Greenberg, the president and inventor the BugZip.

Both bags were removed from testing and replaced. Now the experiment can begin. Each bag is placed inside a separate containment area. Then 50 bedbugs are dumped directly on top of the BugZip. If there's an entry point somewhere, the bedbugs will find it. Most of the bedbugs will eventually falloff the smooth surface of the BugZip.

We'll give the bedbugs 72 hours to see if they can find their way into the luggage. We return three days later to see the results and we find one nymph, or young bedbug, stuck in the zipper. It tried, but wasn't able to find an opening. The researchers are eventually able to account for all 150 bed bugs.

"In this test, we were able to recover all 50 bedbugs in each arena. So basically the bed bugs were not able to enter into the encasements," said Sumiko De La Vega from Sierra Research Labs.

The BugZip sells from $10 to $20, depending on the size. Each bag is intended for use on a single hotel trip, but can also be used for an entire vacation. BugZip hopes to have a version with an improved zipper by the end of next year.

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