Do Electronic Bed Bug Repelling Devices Really Work?
Nothing strikes fear in the hearts and itching of the skin more than just the thought that the hotel bed you are about to sleep in has been home to an untold number of travelers and—if recent news reports are correct—an increasing uptick in the number of cases of bed bug bites as well. Furthermore, returning home unscathed from a bed bug bite in a strange bed is no guarantee that you are not inadvertently carrying stowaway bed bugs to your home in your luggage.
According to experts, part of the problem with bed bugs is that they are an amazingly reproductive species that can reach a population size of over 5,000 pests in 6 months’ time if just 40 bed bugs are released into a bedroom.
The other part of the problem is that bed bugs are tiny (only 1/16 of an inch upon hatching) and are known to hide in the smallest of crevices until the smell of a blood meal—meaning you—has entered a room for a good night’s sleep.
How a person’s body reacts to a bed bug bite can vary, but typically manifests as a swollen and reddened area that may or may not be itchy and therefore may go by unnoticed. For others, however, a bed bug bite can cause intense itching and inflammation.
Currently, the best a traveler can do when spending the night in a strange bed is to first give the hotel room a good doing over visually by looking for signs of bed bugs such as the presence of fecal spotting consisting of digested blood, and skin castings shed by bed bud as they grow.
Alternative measures may include carrying bed bug specific sprays containing pyrethroids that act as a neurotoxicant on bed bugs and spray them along edges where the walls meet the floor and under or around the bed. However, this is an impractical and not very appealing measure for most who would have to decide which is worse—a bug bite or breathing in chemicals that may be toxic to humans as well.
As a result, non-chemical measures have been investigated. One example is the use of electronic devices that produces an ultrasonic frequency that reportedly by some manufacturers will drive bed bugs away from your sleeping area.
The use of ultrasonic sounds to derive away insects is not a new one and has been used toward repelling some insect species such as mosquitoes, cockroaches and ants. However, the efficacy of such measures have mixed results and in at least one case shown that an ultrasonic signal actually caused mosquitoes to increase their biting rates rather than repel them away.
In a soon-to-be-published article in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers report their findings from testing the efficacy of 4 commercially available electronic pest control ultrasonic devices to see if they really worked as well as was advertised by their manufacturers.
The article titled "Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)," describes how the devices were tested following the manufacturer’s instructions using both an ultrasound arena and non-ultrasound control arena containing bed bugs to see if there was any difference in how bed bugs responded (repelled or attracted) by the frequencies emitted by the devices.
What the researchers found was that there were no significant differences in the way the bed bugs behaved in both arenas. Their conclusion was that the ultrasonic bed bug devices did not work as advertised and therefore that buying such devices today are a waste of money for bed bug worried consumers.
However, the authors also concluded that the devices tested may not have worked because the combination of ultrasound frequencies used in the devices may not have been correct and that there is merit toward investigating the use of ultrasound to deter bed bugs. The authors note that frequencies associated with humans such as from breathing or snoring, and in their home appliances, have the potential to be attractants for bed bugs signaling that a nearby meal is present and that knowledge of such bug bioacoustics could be exploited in creating a true bed bug repelling electronic device.
For an informative article about effective measures you can take while traveling to prevent bringing bed bugs back home with you, follow this link to an article titled, “Monkeypox Scare is an Important Bed Bug Reminder for Travelers.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: Free online copy of study—“ Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)” J. Econ. Entomol. 105(6): 2107-2114 (2012); K. M. Yturralde AND R. W. Hofstetter.