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Tags: bed | bug | weapon | fungus

Natural Weapon Found to Fight Bed Bugs

Tuesday, 27 November 2012 12:59 PM EST

Penn State researchers have discovered what could prove to be a potent new weapon against the scourge of bed bugs striking many major U.S. cities: A natural fungus that kills the bloodthirsty pests within days.
Applying “biopesticides” made from the fungus — known as Beauveria bassiana — to bedding could provide a safer and more effective way than using chemical insecticides to combat the creeping critters.
"They are natural diseases that exist in the environment," said Nina Jenkins, a researcher who detailed the Penn team’s findings on the natural fungus that kills bed bugs in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. "They are relatively easy to produce in a lab and stable, so you can use them much like chemical pesticides."
Bed bugs infest thousands of homes and are tough to kill. Increased travel and widespread insecticide resistance have led to a resurgence in the pests throughout North America and Europe. While chemical pesticides can be effective, concerns have been raised about their safety.
That’s why the Penn State entomologists have been looking into “biopesticides” — naturally occurring microorganisms that can be used in place of chemical treatments — as a way to fight blood-sucking bed bugs.
Jenkins said researchers used an airbrush sprayer to apply fungus spore formulations to paper and cotton materials and allowed them to dry at room temperature overnight. Bed bugs were then exposed to the treated surfaces for one hour and monitored. The team found that all of the bed bugs exposed to the biopesticide became infected and died within five days. Most importantly, the infected bed bugs carried the biopesticide back to their hiding places, infecting those that did not go out in search of blood.
"The fungal spores were transferred from the exposed bug to their unexposed companions, and we observed almost a 100 percent infection,” Jenkins said. “So they don't even need to be directly exposed, and that's something chemicals cannot do."
This is a key finding, she noted, because bed bugs don’t only live in beds.
"They hide behind light switches and power sockets and in between the cracks of the baseboard and underneath your carpet," she said.
Researchers now plan to test the effectiveness of the treatment in real-world settings, with the hope their work could soon lead to a commercially available biopesticide.

© HealthDay

Penn State researchers have discovered a natural fungus that kills bloodthirsty bed bugs within days.
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 12:59 PM
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