UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- "And don't let the bed bugs bite" is no longer a harmless adage. In reality today, these bloodthirsty bugs infest thousands of homes. According to a team of Penn State entomologists, biopesticides -- naturally occurring microorganisms -- might provide an answer to this pest problem. Bed bugs need blood meals for growth and development throughout their life cycle. Increased travel, widespread insecticide resistance and changes in management practices have caused a resurgence in those insects throughout North America and Europe. Compounding the problem are concerns about the safety of using traditional chemicals in the domestic environment.
According to Nina Jenkins, senior research associate in entomology, preliminary bioassays on the effects of Beauveria bassiana -- a natural fungus that causes disease in insects -- on bed bug control have been performed, and the results are encouraging. She and her colleagues report their results in the most recent issue of the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.
Jenkins, working with Alexis Barbarin, a former Penn State postgraduate student now at the University of Pennsylvania, Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology, and Matthew Thomas, professor of entomology, looked at how B. bassiana acts through contact with its insect host.
"They are natural diseases that exist in the environment," said Jenkins. "They are relatively easy to produce in a lab and stable, so you can use them much like chemical pesticides."
In the study, the researchers used an airbrush sprayer to apply spore formulations to paper and cotton jersey, a common bed sheet material. Then control surfaces, again paper and cotton jersey, were sprayed with blank oil only. The surfaces were allowed to dry at room temperature overnight. Three groups of 10 bed bugs were then exposed to one of the two surfaces for one hour. Afterward, they were placed on clean filter paper in a petri dish and monitored
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