M. Szyndler and C. Loudon/University of California, Irvine

Hey, want to hang out? Pheromone cocktail traps bedbugs

Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) are notoriously hard to find before they multiply, making them very difficult to eradicate. But now researchers have a new way to fight them. Scientists are reporting a combination of six chemicals that lure and trap bedbugs online this week in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The chemical cocktail mimics the bedbugs’ natural aggregation pheromone, which signals if a location is safe for them to hang out, as those pictured above are doing. To identify the chemicals in the pheromone, the researchers extracted compounds from 18,000 bedbug molts using solvents and dried bedbug feces using heat. They separated and identified each compound, then tested how bedbugs respond to synthetic versions of each. The researchers found five volatile molecules—dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, (E)-2-hexenal, (E)-2-octenal, and 2-hexanone—that attract the bedbugs and one, histamine, that makes the bugs stay put. The six chemicals, when used in baits in a bedbug-infested residential apartment, trapped seven times more bedbugs than control baits without chemicals and did not discriminate between bedbug gender, age, or physiological condition. Monitoring a chemical bait in one location is much simpler than traditional bedbug detection measures like looking for bedbugs in bedding or furniture, the team says. The researchers are working to design low-cost bedbug traps based on this chemical cocktail and aim to commercialize a trap next year.