Bed bugs are attracted to dirty laundry according to new research published by University of Sheffield scientists. The study, led by Dr William Hentley from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, suggests that leaving worn clothes exposed in sleeping areas when travelling may facilitate the dispersal of these critters.
Bed bugs have recently undergone a global resurgence, which has been partly attributed to an increase in low cost international travel in the tourism industry. One possible mechanism facilitating the global spread is that the insects find their way into clothing and luggage.
Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the University of Sheffield research conducted experiments in two identical, temperature-controlled rooms in which four tote bags of clothes were placed — two containing soiled clothes, two with clean clothes — in the presence of bed bugs.
In each run of the experiment, one room received an increase in concentration of CO² to simulate human breathing.
The Sheffield scientists found that in the absence of a human host, the bugs were twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes.
The study also found that in the room with increased concentrations of C0², the bugs were more likely to leave their refuge and initiate host-seeking behavior.
Results from the research suggest that residual human odor on soiled clothes acts as an elicitor of host-seeking behavior in the bugs. Consequently, dirty laundry left in an open suitcase, or left on the floor of an infested room may attract bed bugs.
Dr William Hentley from the University of Sheffield said: “Bed bugs are a huge problem for hotel and homeowners, particularly in some of the world’s biggest and busiest cities. Once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture that can be really costly.
“Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.”
Story Source: University of Sheffield.