The Benefit, for Bedbugs, of Dirty Laundry

Bedbugs in search of cheap travel options would be well-advised to consider humans’ dirty laundry, suggests a reading of this study:

Bed Bug Aggregation on Dirty Laundry: A Mechanism for Passive Dispersal,” William T. Hentley, Ben Webster, Sophie E.F. Evison, and Michael T. Siva-Jothy, Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 11668, 2017. The authors, at the University of Sheffield, UK, report:

“Bed bugs have shown a recent and rapid global expansion that has been suggested to be caused by cheap air travel. How a small, fightless and anachoretic insect that hides within its host’s sleeping area manages to travel long distances is not yet clear. Bed bugs are attracted to the odour of sleeping humans and we suggest that soiled clothing may present a similarly attractive cue, allowing bed bugs to ‘hitch-hike’ around the world after aggregating in the laundry bags of travellers. We show that (1) soiled clothing is signifcantly more attractive than clean clothing to active bed bugs moving within a bedroom sized arena and (2) elevation of CO2 to a level that simulates human occupancy in the same arena appears to initiate search behaviour rather than direct it. Our results show, for the frst time, how leaving worn clothing exposed in sleeping areas when travelling can be exploited by bed bugs to facilitate passive dispersal.”

BONUS BOOK: Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World