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Bed Bugs Can't Wiggle Out of Leaves, Scientists Experiment New Method to Stop Infestations

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 11:46 PM EDT
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Bedbugs spread rapidly and are a hassle to get rid of but a newly material designed to mimic the hooked hairs found on leaves could help trap and control bedbugs, a new study said Wednesday.

US scientists were inspired by a traditional Balkan remedy that used kidney-bean leaves to combat the pest.

A study published The Journal of the Royal Society Interface explains how the scientists have tried to recreate these hooks synthetically that naturally occur on the bean leaves.

Hooks on the bean leaf exploit thinner areas in the bedbug's exoskeleton to trap it, scientists have discovered. The more the bug struggles to raise its legs to free itself, the more stuck it gets.

Using scanning electron microscopy and videography, the team studied the capture mechanism of the leaves. They found that rather than a Velcro-like mechanism that would only hold the bug momentarily, the leaves impaled the bedbugs' feet.

Infestations have increased worldwide, partly due to pesticide resistance. An ensnaring solution could sidestep this. Sceptics ask if enough insects could be trapped to control numbers but suggest it may help monitor populations.

"If someone had suggested to me that impaling insects with little tiny hooks would be a valid form of pest control, I wouldn't have given it credence," said Catherine Loudon, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, according to the New York Times. "You can think of lots of reasons why it wouldn't work. That's why it's so amazing."

"Plants exhibit extraordinary abilities to entrap insects. Modern scientific techniques let us fabricate materials at a microscopic level, with the potential to 'not let the bedbugs bite' without pesticides."

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