“You Shall Not Pass!”: Stopping Bed Bugs in their Tracks
Creepy Crawly Little Vampires
Bed bugs are rampant pests. A pesticide known as DDT was once widely used to combat the vampiric bedtime pests and even nearly eradicated them. But, starting in the late 1990’s bed bugs reemerged. DDT had been declared a dangerous pesticide and, as such, it had been discontinued. Bed bugs are professional hitchhikers and are now rapidly spreading throughout the United States, breeding quickly and becoming a massive infestation problem. They are part of the arachnid family and can be transferred from location to location on clothes, bags, luggage, etc. To learn more about these little bloodsuckers, check out our breakdown on our pest library HERE.
An age-old trick is now being studied by scientists as a natural source of prevention against bed bugs. An old Balkan tradition utilized the placement of leaves to prevent bed bugs from entering one’s bed. The leaves, which were arranged around sleeping areas, come from common bean plants, such as kidney beans. The surface of these leaves is covered in super tiny, hook-shaped hairs known as trichomes.
Trichomes are sharp on a microscopic level and catch bedbugs feet/legs as they walk along – actually spearing through their soft joints and tissue, effectively stopping them in their tracks. The leaves are so effective in fact, that a team of scientists are working to try and recreate a synthetic version of trichomes that could be built into fabrics.
The Trichome Project
If successful, this project could change the game for bed bug control around the world. The synthetic recreation of trichomes can be placed in homes as a productive layer of defense and will last for years as opposed to natural bean leaves that can wilt overnight. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to control and anything that is this effective at stopping them would be extremely beneficial in the war against these bloodsuckers.
Collaborators on the National Science Foundation funded project include: Megan Szyndler (Doctoral student – UC Irvine), Catherine Loudon (entomologist – UC Irvine), Robert Corn (chemist – UC Irvine), Kenneth Haynes (entomologist – University of Kentucky), and Michael Potter (entomologist – University of Kentucky). Together, they are developing a nontoxic microfiber that simulates the shape of trichomes on a geometric level.
In testing, their prototypes managed to catch the bed bugs, but not hold them for longer than a few minutes while the natural leaves typically trap the bugs indefinitely, as such, the project continues. Entomologist Michael Potter commented on the ongoing study, stating, “nature is a hard act to follow, but the benefits could be enormous. Imagine if every bed bug inadvertently brought into a dwelling was captured before it had a chance to bite and multiply.”
University of California – Irvine. (2013) Bean Leaves Can Trap Bedbugs, Researchers Find. Science Daily. Available at: https://www.sceincedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130409211932.htm
Watch Bed Bugs Get Stopped in Their Tracks (2019) YouTube. Deep Look & The National Science Foundation. Avialable at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToeWrGTGOOI (Accessed: June 2020)