Scientists design a better bedbug trap

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Regine Gries has had to endure approximately 180,000 bedbug bites in the course of the research – fortunately, she doesn't experience the allergic reaction suffered by most people

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Having any amount of bedbugs in your home is not a good thing. The sooner that you know they're there, however, the easier it will be to exterminate all of them. With that in mind, scientists from Canada's Simon Fraser University have developed a method of luring the li'l bloodsuckers into traps, and then keeping them there so that their presence can be duly noted and addressed.

The system was developed by biology professor Gerhard Gries and his wife, biologist Regine Gries, along with chemist Robert Britton.

After eight years of research, the Gries had identified a blend of pheromones that attracted bedbugs in a lab setting. When tested in infested apartments, however, that blend did little to lure in the pests.

It was at this point that they began their collaboration with Britton, who used the university's NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectrometers to analyze trace amounts of unknown chemicals that Regine had isolated from shed bedbug skins – it had previously been observed that the bugs preferred to be in places where the skins were present.

Two years later, the researchers ascertained that one of those chemicals, histamine, essentially signaled "safe shelter" to bedbugs. In lab tests, it both drew the bugs into traps, and kept them there indefinitely. Once again, however, it didn't work in apartments – even when combined with the pheromones.

Regine then began investigating the role played by airborne volatile compounds emitted by bedbug feces. After five months and numerous experiments, she finally identified three such compounds that attracted the bugs. Combined with the pheromones and histamine, they're now part of what is described as a "highly effective" lure.

The scientists are currently working with home and garden company Contech Enterprises, to commercially develop a trap that incorporates the technology. A paper on their research was recently published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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