The Secret To Avoiding Bed Bugs – Hairy Limbs?

Gothamist.com
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bed bugs have shut down our movie theaters and our universities, terrorized our mattress stores, and made us afraid of our own sheets. Sometimes chatter about them dies down, but they're always there, waiting to harass us-and we've had no good idea how to protect ourselves other than donning a Gimp suit. But according to a new report, there may be a simpler way to avoid bedbugs: letting your body hair grow long.

According to the journal Biology Letters, bedbugs are more likely to feed on shaved limbs than on hairy ones-and hair helps warn us about the creatures. "Our findings show that more body hairs mean better detection of parasites-the hairs have nerves attached to them and provide us with the ability to detect displacement," said lead researched Professor Michael Siva-Jothy, from Sheffield University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. He recruited 29 volunteers to test his theory, watching the bedbugs as they found a place to feed and removing them only as they were about to bite.

It turned out that more layers of both long visible hairs and finer, "vellus" hairs near the surface worked as a deterrent to the insects; those finer hairs also act as an early warning system. This would explain why bedbugs often attach themselves to wrists or ankles-however, no one is suggesting that one should try to groom themselves like one of those GEICO cavemen: "If you have a heavy coat of long thick hairs it is easier for parasites to hide, even if you can detect them," said Siva-Jothy. Even so, it's definitely some food-for-thought for the new breed of pest controllers.