I had had no problem with bedbugs during my adolescence year. Thanks to my mother's continual insistence in keeping the house clean, I had never been bitten by a bedbug before, and so I never truly appreciated the quote above, until I got ravaged by bedbugs (for two bloody weeks), like literally hundreds of bedbugs, during my exchange program in India. The experience was horrible enough to recall, and one that I hope no human on this planet would have to go through. I could barely sleep at all because of the seemingly never-ending itchiness.
I searched the web frantically looking for a quick solution and, to my horror, found no one-off solution. It's like you can't really exterminate them all at one go; you need to put your mattress out under the sun for a period of time—which means you may need to sleep on another mattress, spray specialized insecticides repeatedly, and seek help from professionals.
Bedbugs are parasitic critters that feed exclusively on blood. They are active mainly at night, but some will not hesitate to take a quick bite at your warm, fuzzy butt when you sit on your bed reading a novel in the middle of the day. One entered my jeans and bit me on the inside of my right thigh, and so you can imagine the awkward gait and the constant urge to scratch my groin while walking down the busy Ahmedabad street.
Owing to modern hygienic measures and the common use of insecticides especially DDT, bedbugs had nearly vanished in many countries in the last century. However, these parasites are making a comeback, partly because they have evolved resistance to pesticides. During the first decade of the 21st century alone, the number of bedbug bite treated in emergency rooms across the United States rose from 21 to 15,945.
|Bedbug bites. Image: en.wikipedia.org|
The rise might also be caused by the increasing convenience of travelling. In fact, the moment I arrived at Kuala Lumpur from India, I immediately put all my clothes in a pail of hot water and voila, a single bedbug floated to the surface. Dead.
So bedbugs are hard to get rid of. And they hitchhike. You need professional service, and it could be expensive and time consuming.
Luckily, researchers at Simon Fraser University announced recently that they may have finally solved the problem with bedbugs.
They'd cracked the chemical code of bedbugs.
The work was published December last year in Angewandte Chemie.
As early as the 1970’s scientists knew that bedbugs were attracted to pheromones in bedbug feces and shed exoskeletons. In 2008 some components of the chemical that attracted other bedbugs were described. This kicked off a Great Pheromone Race in bedbug research.
Pheromones are chemicals released by animals to communicate with other members of their species; they are successfully used in trapping lots of different insects. If humans could manufacture the chemical bedbugs use to signal and attract each other, we could use it to call bugs to a spot so we could trap and kill them.
In field trials, the scientists' blend of bed bug attractant caught 100% of bed bugs.
Even better? The total chemical cost of the synthetic chemicals used in the trap was 10 cents.
But what took scientists so long to solve the problem?
That's because one of the most important components in the pheromone of the bugs isn’t a smell; it's called Histamine, the same chemical produced by our white blood cells as part of the human immune response, and it is sensed by bedbugs only upon contact. Histamine makes the bedbugs stop walking and nestle in. Once the researchers added histamine to their traps, everything changed. Traps baited with their blend caught all types of bedbugs: nymphs and adults; males and females; and both fed and unfed bedbugs.
According to the report by ScienceDaily, the scientists expect the bait to be commercially available in 2015.
Rejoice, humans. Rejoice!