Baiting bed bugs with an artificial human

by nobugsonme on August 12, 2011 · 13 comments

in bed bugs

WRAL news has a story today about North Carolina State University entomologist Dr. Coby Schal, who has a $75,000 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Grant from NCSU to work creating an artificial human which would attract bed bugs to feed on it, instead of on us.

The fake host would need to give off CO2 and heat, as well as some of the chemicals we emit, and would need to have “skin” that was like ours, at least as far as bed bugs are concerned. This would be filled with some kind of blood combined with a bed bug-killing bacteria or virus.

As WRAL in Raleigh reports,

To create an artificial human, Schal stretched a skin-like membrane over a water bottle filled with body temperature water mixed with rabbit blood.

Schal is also studying what bedbugs love about human blood. Most of the research on bedbugs was done 50 years ago, before advances in molecular biology and genetics, he said.

“Once we get those (preferences) incorporated into a bait system, then we’ll have a good prototype,” he said.

Bait combined with a bedbug killing virus or bacteria could end the bed bug invasion, he said.

Bring it on!

We are always glad to hear of research which is being done to help solve this problem.

And so we wait, with bated breath.

You can learn more about this project from Dr. Schal in the video below.

(If the video is not embedded — and working — above, you can view it on WRAL.com.)

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1 Pete August 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

Keep the inventions coming folks!! The $200 bed bug detector device. The human replica bait………..climb up interceptors………packtite……….Midmos BB Solutions…..etc etc……..one day I hope the humans can take this planet back!!!

2 Doug Summers MS August 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm

A robot human to draw out bed bugs in an infested location.

Sounds a little like the medieval practice of tying a pig to the bed before retiring.

3 nobugsonme August 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I can see the connection, Doug.

Except that the artificial human is not a sentient being. And hopefully we can leave him there a nice long time to kill many bugs, unlike the pig, which would have fed bed bugs only in the earlier part of the evening, and in doing so, would have not killed any.

I am not a scientist but it seems like the trickiest part of this might be the bacteria/virus component. There’s often a fine line between creating a solution and creating a monster.

4 nobugsonme August 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Hi Pete,

There have been a lot of advances.

The jury’s still out on some products (like the electronic detector you mention, which we haven’t really seen effectiveness data on yet). But effective tools keep being produced. And until we can eliminate all the bed bugs, we are lucky to have each and every *effective* device which comes along.

5 kirads09 August 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

I love this!! Hope more research like this is funded and continued.

6 NotSoSnug August 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm

NoBugs, aren’t we rather waiting with baited breath?

7 nobugsonme August 14, 2011 at 3:26 am

NotSoSnug — I wondered the same thing! I refer you to The Straight Dope’s helpful answer.

8 blargg August 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Do bedbugs have the ability to send out a “panic” signal if something kills them, like hornets (when someone kills one, the rest know to attack)?

9 nobugsonme August 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Blargg,

(I am not an expert!)

My understanding is that there are alarm pheromones, but bed bugs do not need to be killed to give these off.

10 NotSoSnug August 15, 2011 at 1:10 am

NoBugs, it was a pun… CO2 breath… baited… get it? Heh.

11 nobugsonme August 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Ha – sorry, NoTSoSnug.

I was hoping people would get the pun too, hence the italicization of “bated.”

I didn’t want to spell it as “baited,” for effect, since apparently that’s a pretty common source of confusion (per the Straight Dope).

This may be what’s known as overthinking…

12 NotSoSnug August 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Heh… I wondered if that’s why you italicized it. Should have trusted my gut on that eh.

To get the context right I always think of abated, or ‘bated for short since I worked in Environmental Sciences where pollution abatement (stopped at source) is the objective. And bait, well I grew up fishing.

Sorry for stealing your thunder.

13 nobugsonme August 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

No prolem, NotSoSnug, happy to have the assist. I think I was a bit too subtle there!

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