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A Bedbug Trap That Might Actually Work

Researchers are learning to use bed bugs pheromones against them

(Alex Wild, Inc/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Bedbugs may seem like simple little creatures, with tiny legs, squat bodies and stupid bitey faces. But bedbugs are also social animals, capable of complex, pheromone-based communication. By tapping into this tendency toward teamwork, researchers are working out a better way to draw invasive bedbugs out of their pillow-topped lairs, says Chemical and Engineering News.

More than just a nuisance, bedbugs can in some cases actually be tiny little terrors, their bites capable of spreading disease, sowing anxiety and instantly evaporating the value of a matching mattress/box-spring set.

Step one to eradicating bedbugs from your home is confirming they're there. Yet bedbugs are tiny beasts, and catching one can be difficult.

As part of recent research, scientists have isolated the pheromone that bedbugs use to tell each other they've found a good place to set up camp, says C&EN:

Bedbugs, the team found, release histamine in their feces and in their cuticles, the skin they shed after a blood meal. This sort of waste accumulates in the bugs’ favorite hiding spots, often near a food source.

By combining this newly identified compound with a concoction of other pheromones, the scientists think they've unlocked a way to draw bedbugs out of their hiding holes and into a chemical trap.

The researchers tested their bait in bedbug-infested locations around Vancouver and found that their pheromone blend not only lured bedbugs into traps, but also kept them there, a crucial and challenging step in detection.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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