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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keeping bed bugs away

Bed bug infestations are on the rise in many regions of the world. Not only are they becoming more and more prevalent but they are also increasingly resistant to common pesticides. Luckily, help may be on the way in form of a natural pheromone.

Pheromones are chemical signals that are passed through the air like smells. Bed bugs rely on these signals to communicate with one another about reproductive readiness and other social cues. Researchers from Lund University and from the Engineering and Mathematics Mid Sweden University have discovered that among the pheromones produced by bed bugs is an alarm signal that causes other bed bugs to flee the area. Even better, the signal appears to work well on both the common bed bug Cimex lectularius and on the more recently introduced tropical bed bug Cimex hemipterus.

Getting bed bugs to evacuate your bed is certainly desirable, but if you can’t get your hands on any 4-oxo-(E)-2-hexenal or 4-oxo-(E)-2-octenal (the nymph alarm pheromones) you may prefer the following tips to avoid bringing home an infestation in the first place, especially if you frequent hotel rooms.

  • In the hotel room, check for signs of bed bug infestation—exoskeletons or small blood stains. Not an easy task since bed bugs are no more than half a centimeter long. You’ll need to pull back the sheets and look along the seam lines of the mattress and box springs. You should also check around the headboard, particularly in screw holes or carved recesses.
  • Keep your suitcases off the carpet (some sites suggest keeping your luggage in the bathtub), and check them for infestation before returning home.
  • Put your laundry into plastic bags for immediate washing upon your return home.
  • At home, launder everything possible in hot water; vacuum out your suitcases and discard the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag.