Nature’s Accidental Technology Against Bedbugs

By: Ann Northrup

Ann Northrup spent her undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology….

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Scanning electron microscopy has revealed the nature of an effective historical management practice against bedbugs in Eastern Europe. Bean leaves scattered on floors of sleeping quarters served as a means of bedbug entrapment followed by burning of the leaves each morning. Since there is no evolutionary association of bean leaves and bedbugs, the fate of bedbugs by this method was purely coincidental. As documented in microscopic videography, hooked trichomes on leaf surfaces trap bedbugs who then struggle and impale their tarsi. Laboratory attempts to synthetically duplicate a functional bean leaf surface for this purpose has so far fallen short.

Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 10:83