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Tweaking a Balkan Bed Bug Remedy
There has been a resurgence of bedbugs in recent years, but little progress in getting rid of them. Freezing, extreme heating, vacuuming, and chemicals are a few of the methods currently used to eradicate the bugs.
These methods can be costly and unreliable, and some people resort to potentially dangerous measures, such as spraying unapproved insecticides themselves. Now scientists are working to develop a version of an old Eastern European folk remedy for ridding your house of bedbugs.
Historically, in Eastern Europe people sprinkled the hairy leaves from bean plants on bedbug-infested items. Bugs became trapped on the hairy leaf surfaces; then the leaves were removed and burned.
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine and the University of Kentucky are working to develop materials that mimic trichomes, the microscopic, hooked hairs on the leaves of kidney bean plants that trap the parasitic insects.
The approach has the benefit of being a more environmentally friendly way of getting rid of the bugs, and with no worries of the bugs becoming resistant.
“As my colleague would say, nature is a tough act to follow,” said Ken Haynes, the Bobby Pass Professor of Entomology at the University of Kentucky and an author on the paper. Kidney beans have evolved a variety of insect-catching mechanisms, including trichomes, which are difficult to mimic.
Scientists have developed materials that closely resemble the minute hairs of the bean leaves. But Catherine Loudon, an entomologist at UC Irvine and the lead author of the paper, said in a statement that the important mechanics of trichomes still need to be worked out. The manmade surfaces can trap the bugs, but they cannot yet stop them as effectively as real leaves.
Detecting bedbugs can be tricky, though the red marks left by their bites often give them away. In addition to being nocturnal parasites, they can hide anywhere, quickly reproduce, and easily move around. They can also survive up to 12 months without a blood meal.
Although bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, their bites can cause burning, itching, swelling, and psychological distress.
The study is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
April 24, 2013