Simple Folk Remedy for Bedbug Bite Protection Rediscovered
Not unlike trying to design and build a better mouse trap, researchers in collaboration from UC Irvine and the University of Kentucky are attempting to build a better bedbug trap based on an old Balkan folk remedy for bedbug bite protection that uses kidney bean leaves.
Bedbug prevention is a growing concern in the U.S. due to an uptick in reports of bedbug infestations in homes, hotels, hospitals and schools the past few years. While bedbug bites are more of a nuisance than a health threat, causing localized inflammation and itching on the skin, the “ick” factor as well as their propensity for proliferation has many worried that if America’s bedbug problem is not resolved soon, that bedbugs will eventually be in every home.
The problem with successfully eradicating bedbugs in the home is that they:
• Are small, nocturnal parasites with the ability to hide in cracks and crevices making detection difficult.
• Are able to breed rapidly and “hitchhike” from place to place making them very transmissible.
• Can survive as long as a year without a blood meal.
Travelers or families on vacation who have spent nights in hotels are encouraged to thoroughly clean their luggage before entering their home, so as to prevent carrying these uninvited guests into their house.
So, what did our forebears do about bedbugs back in the day? According to a press release by the University of California Irvine, a centuries-old bedbug prevention method used in Bulgaria, Serbia and other southeast European countries involved spreading kidney bean leaves on the floor around the bed at night, followed by sweeping up and burning the leaves upon waking in the morning. The kidney bean leaves it turns out have microscopic hooked hairs called “trichomes” that essentially impale the legs and feet of bedbugs as they crawl about the floor at night, thereby trapping the bedbugs.
This re-discovery of a folk remedy for bedbug prevention has motivated the scientists to create micro fabricated materials with artificial trichomes that mimic how the kidney bean leaves work on bedbugs. An artificial construct is needed because kidney bean leaves dry out, don’t last very long, and cannot be easily applied to locations other than the floor.
“Plants exhibit extraordinary abilities to entrap insects,” says entomologist Catherine Loudon, co-author of the study, which is available free online published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. “Modern scientific techniques let us fabricate materials at a microscopic level, with the potential to ‘not let the bedbugs bite’ without pesticides.”
Thus far, the effectiveness of the micro fabricated materials with artificial trichomes has been somewhat limited. The authors report that their artificial bedbug trap needs further refinement as the synthetic surfaces snag the bed bugs temporarily, but do not hinder their locomotion as effectively as the real kidney bean leaves.
“Nature is a hard act to follow, but the benefits could be enormous,” says co-author Michael Potter. “Imagine if every bedbug inadvertently brought into a dwelling was captured before it had a chance to bite and multiply.”
For additional info about bedbugs and what to do, follow the links to the articles listed below:
Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket
Reference: “Entrapment of bed bugs by leaf trichomes inspires micro fabrication of biomimetic surfaces” Journal of the Royal Society Interface 6 June 2013 vol. 10 no. 83; Megan W. Szyndler et al.