When you hear us talking about bedbug research, many people don’t realize that there are people who have dedicated their lives to understanding more about bedbugs. While this isn’t a glamorous area of research, it nonetheless is essential for understanding more about pests.
Any area of bedbug research, whether it’s bedbug extermination or general bedbug treatment, requires live bedbugs. While it’s tempting to think that researchers go out into the field to collect bedbugs, in reality, there are a number of companies that provide them purely for research. Consequently, researchers order these pests, which come in securely sealed vials. It suffices to say that these pests are not available to buy for everyday use.
A number of universities have departments of entomology, and several have specific bedbug researchers.
University of California
The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Irvine released a paper in January regarding the rapid killing of bedbugs using heat. This research explored the effects of heat on bedbug behaviors and life spans. In addition, it looked at how bedbugs moved into luggage, which could spur the development of bedbug-proof travel accessories.
University of Dresden, Germany
At the University of Dresden, researchers have been looking at the way that female bedbugs mate and at their “copulatory organ.” By establishing how they breed and exactly what processes they use and the thickness of that organ, it may be possible to prevent bedbugs from breeding using insecticides. Similarly, it might be possible to create a biological method of preventing bedbugs from breeding using the same information.
University of Southern California
At the University of Southern California and in conjunction with various medical centers, researchers have been looking at whether bedbugs transmit disease to humans. The research suggests that the global bedbug population is increasing by 100 to 500 percent annually and that should they transmit disease, this could cause major health risks across vulnerable populations. However, bedbugs are able to neutralize pathogens, reducing the risk of a major health epidemic. As a result, it concluded that bedbugs are unlikely to spread disease, although they are unpleasant pests.
University of Minnesota
At the University of Minnesota, researchers have been looking at residual insecticides and how bedbugs absorb them. It concluded that when bedbugs walked across permethrin-infused mattress liners, they absorbed fairly large doses of insecticide. Of course, this relies on bedbugs not being resistant to permethrin and actually touching the mattress liner for long enough.
At AIST, researchers have been looking at insecticide-resistant bedbug populations. Instead of treating them with insecticides, they’ve been exploring genetic manipulation to introduce a biological weapon against bedbugs. It essentially makes them too fat to breed. While this has promise, given that it reduces bedbug breeding “drastically,” the practicality of it and the delivery system has yet to be described. In short, they can do in the lab, but can they do it in the real world?
An Itchy Conclusion
Bedbug research continues to be a fascinating area, and given the explosion of the bedbug population, it’s clear that there are some innovative approaches being used as bedbug treatments. However, heat treatments are still an extremely valuable approach to bedbug extermination.