Last week, a magazine office in NYC was rumored to have been evacuated due to an infestation of little, blood-sucking reddish brown bugs. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement, reporting many cities are on the threshold of a bed bug pandemic. Yeesh! Good thing we're on the brink of new idea for eradicating these nasty little suckers: Birth control!
A new study published by BMC Biology says that young bed bugs, called "nymphs," release an "anti-aphrodisiac" pheromone that stops adult males from well, in human terms, sexually harassing them.
If you weren't already skeeved by the idea of bed bugs in your home, learning how they mate will really make your skin crawl. Researchers observed the ritual and found that male bed bugs aim to reproduce via a process called "traumatic insemination," involving pouncing and piercing of the female's abdomen. Nymph bed bugs aren't keen on the idea of trauma, so they secrete a pheromone that signals their attacker to back off. Male bed bugs get the clue "very quickly" and jump off the nymphs.
Researchers say that if they were able to pair a man-made version of this powerful, natural sex repellant with a regular insecticide for pest control, male bed bugs would get confused and believe that all of their potential mates are disinterested nymphs. As a result, there would be less bed bug sex. In turn, fewer bed bugs-hurrah!
While a team from Lund University has yet to test this theory in the field, other researchers say they've tried a similar strategy with roaches and they're not as optimistic. They've found that synthetic pheromones are expensive and don't last long enough.
In the meantime, Brooklyn-ites to Toronto-ians are attempting a flurry of DIY, "natural" pest control tactics (duct tape, anyone???) to defend themselves against the resilient critters. But if you really want your home to be pest-free, don't bother. Bed bug birth control or not, your best bet is to call a professional.
Image via MattSemel/Flickr