Bed bug aggregation pheromone breakthrough

by nobugsonme on December 23, 2014 · 8 comments

in bed bug research

A new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University details the identification of all six components of bed bug aggregation pheromone. This is exciting news, as it may lead to the development of more effective active bed bug monitors.

The study, led by Regine Gries, Gerhard J. Gries, and Robert Britton, is forthcoming in the journal Angewandte Chemie and appeared online as an early preview Sunday. Here’s

the abstract:

Bed bugs have become a global epidemic and current detection tools are poorly suited for routine surveillance. Despite intense research on bed bug aggregation behavior and the aggregation pheromone, which could be used as a chemical lure, the complete composition of this pheromone has thus far proven elusive. Here, we report that the bed bug aggregation pheromone comprises five volatile components (dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, (E)-2-hexenal, (E)-2-octenal, 2-hexanone), which attract bed bugs to safe shelters, and one less-volatile component (histamine), which causes their arrestment upon contact. In infested premises, a blend of all six components is highly effective at luring bed bugs into traps. The trapping of juvenile and adult bed bugs, with or without recent blood meals, provides strong evidence that this unique pheromone bait could become an effective and inexpensive tool for bed bug detection and potentially their control.

Gries, R., Britton, R., Holmes, M., Zhai, H., Draper, J. and Gries, G. (2014), Bed Bug Aggregation Pheromone Finally Identified. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. doi: 10.1002/anie.201409890

I look forward to the publication, as I can’t get beyond the preview’s paywall. For now, Chemical & Engineering News fills in some of the blanks and covers the human interest side of the research.

Chemical & Engineering News reports that while lots of research has been done on bed bug pheromones,

…researchers have been missing an important piece of the pheromone puzzle, namely the arrestant compound that bedbugs use to tell one another that a particular habitat is a safe place to hunker down— between a mattress and a box spring, for instance.

A team of biologists and chemists at Simon Fraser University, in Canada[…] now believes it has identified the arrestant: histamine, a simple compound humans produce during immune responses. Bedbugs, the team found, release histamine in their feces and in their cuticles, the skin they shed after a blood meal. This sort of waste accumulates in the bugs’ favorite hiding spots, often near a food source. The researchers are now working to turn their discovery into commercialized bedbug traps.

And the researchers are, not surprisingly, already talking to a company about producing a monitor as early as next year, according to Chemical & Engineering News.

The human interest component the media seems most interested in? Researcher Regine Gries reports having provided bed bugs with 180,000 blood meals. As the Voice Online reports,

The world owes a debt of gratitude to Simon Fraser University biologist Regine Gries. Her arms have provided a blood meal for more than a thousand bedbugs each week for five years…

I think it’s fair to say that those of us who’ve dealt with bed bugs are eternally grateful for any and all researchers who work on the bed bug issue, but perhaps especially those who put their skin on the line.

On another note, spider fans may also be interested in Gerhard Gries’s research on “twerking” in black widow spiders.

1 Winston O. Buggy December 23, 2014 at 11:44 am

This news sounds encouraging although for those of us who have been around for a while (or feeding bed bugs like Lou) know the road to market can be a long journey for a myriad of reasons. Looking forward to the research release. Thanks for keeping us up to date NOBUGS.

2 nobugsonme December 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for your comment, Winston. Yes– the journey from this research discovery to an application which will help consumers is not going to be overnight.

Lou is one of our big bed bug-feeding heroes, to be sure. And as far as I know, he didn’t get a break after five years.

3 TOAT December 23, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Very interesting (and Lou is a hero and Winston is F-U-N-N-Y). They both are wonderful support to the forum.

4 nobugsonme December 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Quite right, TAOT!

Thanks for commenting!

5 Lou Sorkin December 29, 2014 at 10:32 am

I didn’t know this had posted to the bedbugger site, yet. I think much of the chemical info was already known except for the histamine arrestant. I’d have to say that I’ve donated blood for the cause for over 20 years; in fact, this morning a jarful had about a 30 minute feed, so many of my 6-legged house guests have had breakfast and are going about their day of doing nothing but digesting. Maybe some mating is going on, too. You never know with them; so much of their lives are spent in the dark.

6 nobugsonme December 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Thank you again, Lou, for your valiant and longstanding efforts!

Yes, it sounds like the breakthrough was the histamine factor. I tried to convey this above. The media is blowing it all out of proportion at this point (“New Insect Trap Prevents Bed Bug Infestations” is just one example of today’s Google alerts).

I guess there isn’t much good news to report that sells ad space.

7 M January 18, 2015 at 1:20 am

I have the paper if anyone is interested in reading it in full.

8 Winston O. Buggy January 28, 2015 at 1:19 pm

According to the study and supplemental information, there is some concern that the traps will be ineffective in severe infestations because female bed bugs tend to avoid crowded situations such as those that may be found in traps. 🙁

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