Bedbug infestations are a living nightmare, and those little bloodsuckers love to hitch a ride on people so they can spread the infestation all over town, or in the case of international travelers spread it across the globe.
Scientists have focused on learning how bedbugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks in an effort to stop them from spreading.
But William Hentley from the University of Sheffield thinks their focus should change to the dirty laundry we bring back with us from our trip:
“Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”
Scientists already know that human odor attracts bed bugs, though not which chemicals in the odor specifically. But for the newest study, researchers prepared a mock bedroom with laundry bags containing clean and dirty clothes—in other words, there were no humans in the room. The critters were “twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes,” according to the paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the amount of carbon dioxide in the room did not affect their results—the CO2 source would represent a human, since some bugs like mosquitos are specifically attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale.
These results were enough to convince the researchers that bed bugs could travel throughout the world by hitching a ride in luggage containing dirty clothes.
the authors “demonstrate a striking pattern that bags containing clothes with human odor were more frequently used as refuges than those without. This result emphases the importance of making sure luggage and other belongings are made as inaccessible to bed bugs as possible when staying in increased risk places, for example by making sure bags are fully closed and secured and kept away from the bed.” Hentley agreed with this advice.