At night, these parasites crawl onto your bed, bite you and suck your blood. Then they find a nearby hideout where they leave disgusting telltale signs. But these pests have an Achilles’ heel that stops them cold.
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Adult bed bugs are about the size and color of an apple seed. After biting, they hide in a nearby cranny, like the seam of the mattress.
At the University of California, Irvine, biologist and engineer Catherine Loudon is working to create synthetic surfaces that could trap bed bugs. She was inspired by the tiny hooked hairs that grow from the leaves of some varieties of beans, such as kidney and green beans. In nature, these hairs, called trichomes, pierce through the feet of the aphids and leafhoppers that like to feed on the plants.
Researchers have found that these pointy hairs are just as effective against bed bugs, even though the bloodsucking parasites don’t feed on leaves. Loudon’s goal is to mimic a bean leaf’s mechanism to create an inexpensive, portable bed bug trap.
“You could imagine a strip that would act as a barrier that could be placed virtually anywhere: across the portal to a room, behind the headboard, on subway seats, an airplane,” Loudon said. “They have six legs, so that’s six opportunities to get trapped.”
— Where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs don’t fly or jump or come in from the garden. They crawl very quickly and hide in travelers’ luggage. They also move around on secondhand furniture, or from apartment to apartment.
— How can I avoid bringing bed bugs home?
“It would probably be a prudent thing to do a quick bed check if you’re sleeping in a strange bed,” said Potter. His recommendation goes for hotel rooms, as well as dorms and summer camp bunk beds. He suggests pulling back the sheet at the head of the bed and checking the seams on the top and bottom of the mattress and the box spring.
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