Tag Archives: Catherine Loudon

Bedbugs: a bean-based solution from the Balkans or an artificial spider web solution from Fibertrap

Today (Apr. 10, 2013), I came across two news items about ridding oneself of bedbugs. Given the amount of coverage the pests and their growing ubiquity have been receiving the last few years, it seems that at some point everyone will experience an infestation. So, it’s good to see that scientists and entrepreneurs are working on solutions.

First up, there’s a team of scientists who are studying how people in the Balkans rid themselves of bedbugs, from the Apr. 9, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily,

Inspired by a traditional Balkan bedbug remedy, researchers have documented how microscopic hairs on kidney bean leaves effectively stab and trap the biting insects, according to findings published online today [Apr. 9, 2013] in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Scientists at UC [University of California] Irvine and the University of Kentucky are now developing materials that mimic the geometry of the leaves.

I knew they were a problem but I hadn’t realized how very hardy the bugs are, from the news item,

Bedbugs have made a dramatic comeback in the U.S. in recent years, infesting everything from homes and hotels to schools, movie theaters and hospitals. Although not known to transmit disease, their bites can cause burning, itching, swelling and psychological distress. It helps to catch infestations early, but the nocturnal parasites’ ability to hide almost anywhere, breed rapidly and “hitchhike” from place to place makes detection difficult. They can survive as long as a year without a blood meal.

Current commercial prevention methods, including freezing, extreme heating, vacuuming and pesticides, can be costly and unreliable. Many sufferers resort to ineffective, potentially dangerous measures, such as spraying nonapproved insecticides themselves rather than hiring a professional.

The University of California Irvine Apr. 9, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, describes the researchers’ [Doctoral student Megan Szyndler, entomologist Catherine Loudon and chemist Robert Corn of UC Irvine and entomologists Kenneth Haynes and Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky] inspiration, the bean leaves, at more length and the proposed bedbug solution,

Their work was motivated by a centuries-old remedy for bedbugs used in Bulgaria, Serbia and other southeast European countries. Kidney bean leaves were strewn on the floor next to beds and seemed to ensnare the blood-seeking parasites on their nightly forays. The bug-encrusted greenery was burned the next morning to exterminate the insects.

Through painstaking detective work, the scientists discovered that the creatures are trapped within seconds of stepping on a leaf, their legs impaled by microscopic hooked hairs known botanically as trichomes.

Using the bean leaves as templates, the researchers have microfabricated materials that closely resemble them geometrically. The synthetic surfaces snag the bedbugs temporarily but do not yet stop them as effectively as real leaves, Loudon said, suggesting that crucial mechanics of the trichomes still need to be determined.

Theoretically, bean leaves could be used for pest control, but they dry out and don’t last very long. They also can’t easily be applied to locations other than a floor. Synthetic materials could provide a nontoxic alternative.

“Plants exhibit extraordinary abilities to entrap insects,” said Loudon, lead author of the paper. “Modern scientific techniques let us fabricate materials at a microscopic level, with the potential to ‘not let the bedbugs bite’ without pesticides.”

“Nature is a hard act to follow, but the benefits could be enormous,” Potter said. “Imagine if every bedbug inadvertently brought into a dwelling was captured before it had a chance to bite and multiply.”

Here’s a citation and link to the article,

Entrapment of bed bugs by leaf trichomes inspires microfabrication of biomimetic surfaces by Megan W. Szyndler,  Kenneth F. Haynes, Michael F. Potter, Robert M. Corn,
and Catherine Loudon. J. R. Soc. Interface. 2013 10 83 20130174; doi:10.1098/rsif.2013.0174 (published 10 April 2013) 1742-5662

This article is open access.

Moving onto the second bedbug item, Azonano features an Apr. 10, 2013 news item about Fibertrap and its artificial spider web trap for bedbugs,

A breakthrough and innovative solution to the growing plague of bedbugs is about to impact the lives of people suffering from one of the world’s most tenacious pests. Fibertrap is a New York based firm that has developed a revolutionary new way to stop bedbugs, termites and other pests without the use of harmful and toxic chemicals and instead by using an artificial, micro-fiber spider web.

Here’s more about how this solution works,

As the war against bedbugs rages on these nasty insects have become increasingly resistant to pesticides and other common methods of pest control. Fibertrap’s ground-breaking new method addresses the fundamental weakness in all bedbugs and pests: mobility. Utilizing micro-fibers 50 times thinner than human hair, Fibertrap entangles the bugs as they crawl trapping them in the man-made web. Without the ability to move and seek food the creatures will die, ceasing re-production and preventing the establishment of infestation.

Most often, bedbugs move between walls via electrical outlets to unsuspecting home and business owners. To help prevent bedbug migration, Fibertrap intends to produce easy to use traps and insulation products using this innovative new web-like material that will allow the consumer to protect their homes, apartments, offices and dorm rooms with ease and peace of mind.

You can read more about it at Azonano or you can try the Fibertrap website. I cannot find any information about purchasing a Fibertrap product. I think this is publicity designed to excite interest and further investment so these materials ,which are currently at a prototype stage, can be brought to market.

I hope someone is able to get a pest control product for bedbugs to us soon.