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Posted on Nov 21, 04:28PM | IANS
A natural fungus could get rid of blood sucking bed bugs which infest thousands of homes and deprive inmates of sound sleep.
Preliminary tests on the effect of a natural fungus, B. bassiana, in controlling bed bugs, have shown encouraging results, said Nina Jenkins, senior research associate in entomology at the Penn State University.
Jenkins, working with Alexis Barbarin, former Penn State postgraduate student now at the University of Pennsylvania, Edwin Rajotte and Matthew Thomas, both professors at Penn State, looked at how B. bassiana acts through contact with its insect host.
They 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 Journal of Invertebrate Pathology reported.
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, according to a Penn statement.
Afterward, they were placed on clean filter paper in a petri dish and monitored. The researchers found that all of the bed bugs exposed to the biopesticide became infected and died within five days.
"We exposed half of a population of bed bugs to a spray residue for one hour and then allowed them to go into a harborage with unexposed individuals," said Jenkins.
"The fungal spores were transferred from the exposed bug to their unexposed companions, and we observed almost a hundred percent infection. So they don't even need to be directly exposed, and that's something chemicals cannot do," Jenkins said.
This result is important because bed bugs live in hard-to-reach places.
"Bed bugs tend to be cryptic, and they'll hide in the tiniest crevices," said Jenkins.
"They don't just live in your bed. They hide behind light switches and power sockets and in between the cracks of the baseboard and underneath your carpet."
The speed of mortality with B. bassiana is as fast as Jenkins has seen in any application, but it doesn't even need to be that fast.