News of bedbug invasion unfolding in Paris and some parts of France made headlines around the world. The city of love and lights became the city of bedbug bites. But for people in Paris and everywhere else in the world where bedbugs roam, there’s some good news: there’s a better way to get rid of them.
“You don’t have to be bait any longer,” one of the researchers says.
No human sacrifice required
When it comes to parasites that love to suck our blood, bedbugs are up there with the worst of them. They’re not just annoying little bloodsuckers, but they’re resilient, too. Although bedbug invasions come and go, we’re never free of bedbugs. Part of the reason why it’s so hard to deal with an infestation is that it’s tricky to get the bedbugs out.
Bedbugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide, warmth, and certain chemicals produced by humans. When they don’t detect something that attracts them, they usually just stay hidden, lurking in the cracks and crevices of your house. So if you want to do a proper extermination, you also need to lure them out somehow.
Humans can act as a lure for bedbugs. Essentially, someone would sleep in an infested room and lure the bedbugs out. Then, the disinfestation can be much more effective. This “human sacrifice” approach is not recommended (for obvious reasons), but it can work — and this was done traditionally in some cases.
But this is not needed anymore.
A pair of master’s students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, Maja Åstrand and Simon Lilja, have designed a machine that relieves people of this ungracious task. In fact, Åstrand says the idea came after she was the designated bait in her own home.
“That was really traumatic for me. I had to sleep as bait for eight weeks, and that’s the problem we have tried to solve by replicating this tactic.”
Fishing for bedbugs
Some bedbug detectors do exist, but this doesn’t just detect bedbugs — it traps them.
Their prototype emits a far-reaching CO2 signal that the bedbugs can detect. They are drawn to the system and trapped there. The prototype is already functional (and the two are looking to get it patented), but they’re also working on an improvement: a camera that would observe the bedbugs’ behavior and optimize the CO2 signal accordingly.
“Our technology focuses on what you do after you find a bedbug infestation,” she says. “We’re focused on the treatment of the infestation, and as far as we know there are no other technologies meant to attract and capture bedbugs as a means of treatment.”
The team tested the prototype in a controlled environment and it seems to do well. The next step (which they’re already working on) is setting up a lab to simulate a furnished living space with actual bedbugs. They’re also developing various formulations to improve the appeal of the bedbug trap.
“Our ultimate goal is to enhance the machine’s allure to a level where it even surpasses human attraction,” Lilja says, adding that this trap can also help treat the infestation much quicker.
“Based on the science regarding both bedbugs feeding behavior as well as secondary population waves caused by nymphs and eggs we hope to be able to cut down the treatment time significantly.”
This type of invention is all the more important as many of today’s bedbugs are becoming immune to commonly used insecticides. To make matters even worse, climate change is extending the conditions that bedbugs like.
No doubt, in the fight against bedbugs, we need all the help we can get.