Scientists Develop A Trap To Put The Bite On Bed Bugs
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Few things destroy the reputation of a high-class hotel faster than bedbugs. These vampiric arthropods, which almost disappeared from human dwellings with the introduction of synthetic insecticides after World War II, are making a comeback.

Even trained pest-control inspectors can miss them. What is needed is a way to flush them into the open. And James Logan, Emma Weeks and their colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Rothamsted Research think they have one: a bedbug trap baited with something the bugs find irresistible -- the smell of their own droppings.

The bugs are attracted to this smell because they use it to navigate back to their hidey-holes after a night of feeding. To develop the bait for the new trap, Weeks therefore analyzed the chemicals given off by bedbug feces and attempted to work out which of the components were acting as signposts. Having found what the smell consisted of, she wafted the chemicals in question, one by one, at bedbugs that had their antennae wired up to micro-electrodes, to see which of them provoked a response.

The result, the details of which the team is keeping secret for commercial reasons, is used to bait a trap, designed by Logan, that is about the size of a standard mousetrap and has a sticky floor similar to flypaper. And it works. The new trap could be used both to assess whether a hotel room or apartment is infested and also to kill the insects without dousing everything in insecticide.