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Odor May Be Used to Combat Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are an increasingly common pest that necessitates extensive decontamination of homes. However, researchers from Lund and Sundsvall in Sweden have now discovered that young bed bugs produce an odor that repels other bed bugs. It is hoped that these findings could contribute to more effective control of the blood-sucking insects. In recent years, bed bug infestations have become increasingly common in Swedish homes. There are two different species of bed bug that suck blood from humans – the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug. Increased foreign travel has meant that tropical bed bugs frequently accompany travellers to Sweden. A team of researchers from Lund University and Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall has now identified and quantified a type of odor that bed bugs produce using alarm pheromones. The researchers have studied the odors in both adult bed bugs and nymphs (immature bed bugs). The research team observed that the odors given off by the two stages of insect are surprisingly similar. Moreover, nymphs give off a different odor from adult bed bugs. Behavioral tests show that the nymphs’ odor is repulsive to both adult individuals and other nymphs. The researchers believe that this repellent effect could be used in control systems where alarm pheromones make the bed bugs more mobile and therefore increase the effectiveness of drying agents to kill them. However, this type of possible environmentally friendly control method requires greater understanding of how bed bugs’ pheromone system works. The research results were published online on March 30, 2011, in the journal PloS ONE. [Press release] [PLoS ONE abstract]