A new bed bug-killing method described in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface uses kidney bean leaves like a kind of fly paper for bedbugs. This isn’t an entirely new solution; people in the Balkans often used it in the years before bedbugs were virtually eradicated.
The only way to get rid of bed bugs is to make EVERYTHING YOU OWN SMELL LIKE BED BUGS. I want to cry. “Dude, is your room infested with bed bugs or is that just the bed bug spray?” “God, I don’t know. Jesus take the wheel. I’m not much longer for this unkind earth.”
Bed bugs are the scourge of New York, and of other cities as well. And yet, for a number of reasons, the long-awaited War on Bedbugs has yet to arrive. Since they don’t actually spread disease (though they have on occasion provoked an allergic reaction), they’re not a priority for American research dollars. Being one of the lone U.S. scientists who sets out to study the creatures hasn’t traditionally been pleasant; one researcher let a colony feed on him for 30 years, while another used condoms filled with rabbit blood, until university auditors became suspicious, according to the New York Times. It’s gotten to the point where some researchers suggest the best we can do is “psychologically reappraise" bedbugs—essentially will outselves to view them as being less scary and repulsive.
That’s cold comfort for anyone who’s got voracious, unwanted visitors living in their mattress. Which is why today’s news from Lund University and Mid Sweden University presents a glimmer of hope. Bedbug infestations are on the rise in Sweden, too, apparently—both common bedbugs and exotic “tropical” bedbugs that hitch rides back to Scandinavia in the luggage and clothing of Swedish vacationers.
A team of researchers “identified and quantified a type of smell that bed bugs produce, known as alarm pheromones.” “Nymph” bedbugs in particular—ones not yet fully grown—produce a smell that both adults and other nymphs find repugnant. The researchers hope that the repulsive “alarm pheromones” might be harnessed to help control bedbugs. It’s not that the pheromones themselves would be sufficient to convince bedbugs to move out. Rather, skillful use of the pheromones would increase the mobility of the bedbugs and “therefore increase the effectiveness of drying agents to kill them”—something like smoking a critter out of its hole before catching it.
How long till we reap the fruits of this bedbug-fighting innovation? We’ve reached out to the scientists to find out. So far, they’ve only said that “this type of possible environmentally friendly control method requires greater understanding of how bed bugs’ pheromone system works.”
Uh oh! According to some researchers at Ohio State University, the common bedbug has caught onto the whole pesticide thing, and he is NOT impressed:
"The insecticides being used right now are based on the idea that resistance in bedbugs is caused by point mutations in genes," explained Omprakash Mittapalli, corresponding author of the study, in a statement. “But we are finding out that the mode of resistance could be attributed to a combination of changes in the bug’s genetic makeup (such as mutations) as well as transcriptomic adjustments leading to differential gene expression. Pinpointing such defense mechanisms and the associated genes could lead to the development of novel methods of control that are more effective.” Other genetic changes could be giving the pests sturdier exoskeletons that are more resistant to pesticide penetration.
Translation: Bedbugs are adapting to our pesticides in ways we’d never considered before, and as a result, no one will ever sleep again.
But don’t worry! Possible solutions include: throwing out your furniture, moving to the countryside, renting Joe’s Apartment for advice on how to live with your new insect overlords, huddling in a corner and sobbing until you fall asleep (every night, for the next twenty years). Alternately, you can just leave that ratty old recliner out in the alley where it belongs.