According to the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Dec. 22, 2014 news release (on EurekAlert but dated as Dec. 23, 2014 and on ScienceDaily as a Dec. 24, 2014 news item) a new solution for detecting and monitoring bedbugs will be on the market next year (2015) and I imagine that if it’s as effective and affordable as they claim huge sighs of relief and much shouting of joy will accompany the product launch (Note: Links have been removed),
The world owes a debt of gratitude to Simon Fraser University biologist Regine Gries. Her arms have provided a blood meal for more than a thousand bedbugs each week for five years while she and her husband, biology professor Gerhard Gries, searched for a way to conquer the global bedbug epidemic.
Working with SFU chemist Robert Britton and a team of students, they have finally found the solution—a set of chemical attractants, or pheromones, that lure the bedbugs into traps, and keep them there.
This month, after a series of successful trials in bedbug-infested apartments in Metro Vancouver, they have published their research, Bedbug aggregation pheromone finally identified, in Angewandte Chemie, a leading general chemistry journal.
They’re working with Victoria-based Contech Enterprises Inc. to develop the first effective and affordable bait and trap for detecting and monitoring bedbug infestations. They expect it to be commercially available next year.
The news release describes the research issues in more detail,
“The biggest challenge in dealing with bedbugs is to detect the infestation at an early stage,” says Gerhard, who holds an NSERC-Industrial Research Chair in Multimodal Animal Communication Ecology.
“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.”
It’s a solution the world has been waiting for.
Over the last two decades the common bedbug (Cimex lectularius), once thought eradicated in industrialized countries, has reappeared as a global scourge. These nasty insects are infesting not just low-income housing but also expensive hotels and apartments, and public venues such as stores, movie theatres, libraries and even public transit.
And while these blood-sucking pests were previously not considered a carrier of disease, scientists have recently discovered they can transmit the pathogen that causes Chagas disease, which is prevalent in Central and South America. Yet until now, tools for detecting and monitoring these pests have been expensive and technically challenging to use.
The news release also provides a backgrounder describing the research process,
The Gries’ began their research eight years ago when Gerhard, who is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in chemical and bioacoustic communication between insects, began searching for pheromones that could lure and trap bedbugs.
Regine worked with him, running all of the lab and field experiments and, just as importantly, enduring 180,000 bedbug bites in order to feed the large bedbug colony required for their research. She became the unintentional “host” because, unlike Gerhard, she is immune to the bites, suffering only a slight rash instead of the ferocious itching and swelling most people suffer.
The Gries’ and their students initially found a pheromone blend that attracted bedbugs in lab experiments, but not in bedbug-infested apartments. “We realized that a highly unusual component must be missing—one that we couldn’t find using our regular gas chromatographic and mass spectrometric tools,” says Gerhard.
That’s when they teamed up with Britton, an expert in isolating and solving the structure of natural products, and then synthesizing them in the lab. He used SFU’s state-of-the-art NMR [nuclear magnetic resonance] spectrometers to study the infinitesimal amounts of chemicals Regine had isolated from shed bedbug skin, looking for the chemical clues as to why the bedbugs find the presence of skin so appealing in a shelter.
It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
After two years of frustrating false leads, Britton, his students and the Gries duo finally discovered that histamine, a molecule with unusual properties that eluded identification through traditional methods, signals “safe shelter” to bedbugs. Importantly, once in contact with the histamine, the bedbugs staid put whether or not they have recently fed on a human host.
Yet, to everyone’s disbelief, neither histamine alone nor in combination with the previously identified pheromone components effectively attracted and trapped bedbugs in infested apartments. So Regine began analyzing airborne volatile compounds from bedbug faeces as an alternate source of the missing components.
Five months and 35 experiments later, she had found three new volatiles that had never before been reported for bedbugs. These three components, together with two components from their earlier research and, of course, histamine, became the highly effective lure they were seeking.
Their research isn’t over yet, however. They continue to work with Contech Enterprises to finalize development of the commercial lure—which means Regine is still feeding the bedbugs every week. “I’m not too thrilled about this,” admits Regine, “but knowing how much this technology will benefit so many people, it’s all worth it.”
Here’s a link to and a citation for the research paper,
Bed Bug Aggregation Pheromone Finally Identified by Regine Gries, Prof. Robert Britton, Michael Holmes, Huimin Zhai, Jason Draper, and Prof. Gerhard Gries. Angewandte Chemie International Edition DOI: 10.1002/anie.201409890 Article first published online: 21 DEC 2014
© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
This article is behind a paywall.
For anyone curious about Contech (this project’s industry partner), here’s more from the company’s About Contech page,
Contech was founded in 1987 as a small, Canadian company dedicated to designing, manufacturing, and marketing innovative and environmentally-friendly products for the pet and garden industries. Over the years, we have grown our selection – through acquisitions and mergers with like-minded organizations – to add a range of products for Christmas, forestry, agriculture and pest management markets.
The acquisitions of Pherotech International in 2008 and green pest management pioneer, Tanglefoot in 2009, helped to solidify our commitment to providing unique and convenient products to the growing non-toxic pest management market. In 2011, we purchased three additional companies: G&B Pet Products, Christmas Mountain Manufacturing and Rainforest Sprinklers, adding additional pet products, Christmas tree stands and accessories, and a water-saving line of sprinklers to the mix.
While still headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia (BC), our growing company oversees an amazing science and innovation team at its Vancouver, BC location, a world-class operations and production group at the original Tanglefoot building in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Christmas products production facility in Perth Andover, New Brunswick and a pet sales office in Vista, California.
Through our growth, Contech has maintained a dedication to serving the needs of our customers at all levels of our organization. Our customer service team (made up of real people) responds to phone and online enquiries in real time, our in-house marketing professionals are committed to helping grow the businesses of our retail partners, and our sales representative are the direct link to retailers and distributors.