Scientists have just linked human odor with the current growth of the global bed bug epidemic.
As international travel has become increasingly affordable, bed bugs have been blowing up in metropolitan cities which is why it’s so important to check your hotel rooms for bed bugs. The link also contains advice on what to do once you get home.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield set out to test a simple theory – whether or not bed bugs are attracted to dirty laundry.
Their results came back positive and lead them to draw the conclusion that this behavior is what typically leads to bed bugs hitchhiking home with you after your holiday.
Dr. William Hentley of the University of Sheffield commented and advised that:
“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 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.”
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The experiment was relatively straightforward. Researchers brought in volunteers who all bathed with the same unscented soap before wearing white cotton shirts and socks.
Three hours later, the clothing was sealed in bags. Half were washed while the other half remained soiled.
Two identical temperature-controlled rooms were used – one room was pumped full of carbon dioxide while the other was not.
Carbon dioxide is a very typical bait used in bed bug traps which works by mimicking human breath – it is normally very effective.
Finally, the bed bugs were set loose in the rooms after receiving full blood meals.
Bed bugs wound up in the bags with dirty clothes twice as often versus bags with clean clothes.
Researchers were surprised to find that carbon dioxide did not seem to change their behavior. This tells us that carbon dioxide is not the only human sign that bed bugs can sniff out.
Considering that they had already been fed blood meals, this tells me that bed bugs are attracted to the human scent in general when choosing a place to hide.
This is what caused scientists to link their attraction to odor to their international spread. Your unwashed vacation laundry is as attractive to bed bugs as the hotel bed you sleep on.
Given that many beds in hotels these days employ bed bug proof encasements, your open suitcase full of worn clothing lying on the ground might even be more appealing than the bed.
Researchers specifically shared that:
“Potential ‘vehicles’ for passive dispersal, such as luggage, are likely to contain recently worn clothes (i.e., those soiled with sweat and volatiles) that release human odor, especially since travelers tend to take home their dirty laundry. Odors from soiled clothing (or luggage containing soiled clothing) may therefore influence host-searching behavior in bed bugs and consequently facilitate the passive dispersal of bed bugs via long-distance transport networks.”
What It Means
The findings I’ve shared emphasize the importance of keeping luggage and other belongings inaccessible to bed bugs when staying in increased risk places.
Keeping bags fully sealed, secured, and kept away from the bed will go a long way to deter this behavior.
For more on checking hotel rooms for bed bugs, there’s this post on the topic.
Should you be a frequent traveler, I always recommend investing in a decent bed bug heater. The peace of mind you get from simply tossing your luggage in and setting a timer is priceless.
Thanks for Reading!
Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself. Together, we can push page the resurgence of bed bugs in this world. We all already have enough to worry about, after all.
Consider sharing these resources with those you care about – we can beat bed bugs if everyone’s on board.