While most people go to great lengths to ensure their beds are free of bedbugs, one Canadian biologist has been inviting them to feed on her each week for five years.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Regine Gries, a Canadian biologist, subjected herself to over 180,000 bedbug bites over the course of five years. Gries was allowing the bedbugs to feed on her as part of an experiment to better understand how to deal with bedbug infestations by understanding their chemical communication patterns. Gerhard Gries, Regine’s husband, is a “specialist in chemical communication among insects.” Gerhard used the research to identify the bedbugs’ own chemical signals so that they could be replicated and used in traps.
However, to perform the experiments, the bedbugs needed to be kept alive. To do so they needed to feed on human blood. Regine volunteered to be the “host” because she is somewhat immune to the bites, suffering only a small rash. Gerhard, on the other hand, has severe reactions to the bites including itching and swelling.
Regine allowed over a thousand bedbugs to bite her each week for five years. In total, Regine ended up receiving 180,000 bites before the research was complete. Luckily her suffering may have come with a large reward for those struggling with bedbug infestations. Dr. Gerhard Gries found that bedbugs communicate via odor emissions. Some odors are used to denote a food source, while others are used to warn other bugs about a potential danger.
By harnessing the power of the bedbugs’ own odor, Gries was able to create a bedbug trap. Entomology Today notes that the process of isolating the specific bedbug scent needed for the trap was not easy.
“They initially found a pheromone blend that attracted bed bugs in lab experiments, but it didn’t work in apartments infested with bed bugs.”
The researchers learned that it wasn’t just the correct scent that needed to be obtained, but also certain volatile chemicals must also be present to attract the pesky bugs. Finally the researchers were able to create an inexpensive and reliable bedbug trap. The trap should make it to the commercial market soon, and Gerhard claims the trap “is mainly important as a convenient, affordable way to confirm the presence of bedbugs.”
Gerhard told EurekAlert that the biggest challenge that people deal with is detecting a bedbug infestation.
“The biggest challenge in dealing with bedbugs is to detect the infestation at an early stage. This trap will help landlords, tenants, and pest-control professionals determine whether premises have a bedbug problem, so that they can treat it quickly. It will also be useful for monitoring the treatment’s effectiveness.”
With the new bedbug trap based on the complex chemical communication system of the bugs, people will be able to detect bedbugs sooner allowing for a more thorough treatment.
Would you sacrifice yourself to over 180,000 bedbug bites to help researchers create new bedbug infestation solutions?