It only takes one infestation with bed bugs to make you an expert on the subject. Here’s what any infested or formerly infested–and traumatized–person can tell you: bedbugs are quickly gaining resistance to the pesticides that kept them at bay for the past 70 years.
The most effective options available (heat treatments and Vikane) are extremely pricey. The DIY options out there, like diatomaceous earth, can be too tricky for many people to handle. And that’s all a big problem for lower-income residents and homeowners who can’t afford to just ditch their homes and start anew. Any low-cost solution is a welcome one, which is why the recent news that kidney bean leaves may be able to destroy bedbugs is such a big deal.
A new bed bug-killing method described in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface uses kidney bean leaves like a kind of fly paper for bedbugs. This isn’t an entirely new solution; people in the Balkans often used it in the years before bedbugs were virtually eradicated. Smithsonian.com reports:
In the past, those suffering from infestations would scatter the leaves on the floor surrounding their bed, then collect the bedbug-laden greenery in the morning and destroy it. In 1943, a group of researchers studied this phenomenon and attributed it to microscopic plant hairs called trichomes that grow on the leaves’ surface to entangling bed bug legs. They wrote up their findings in “The action of bean leaves against the bedbug,” but World War II distracted from the paper and they wound up receiving little attention for their work.
Luckily, researchers from the University of Kentucky and the University of California, Irvine picked up where the mid-century researchers left off, setting out to discover how the bean leaf solution works and how it might be used in today’s bed bug fight. Initially, they found that the bean leaves impale bedbug feet (kind of like a big thorn), ensuring a timely death. The next step: creating faux bean leaves that do the same thing.
The team then allowed bedbugs to walk across their synthetic leaves to test their effectiveness compared to the real deal. The fabricated leaves did snag the bugs, but they didn’t hinder the insects’ movements quite as effectively as the living plants. But the researchers are not deterred by these initial results. They plan to continue working on the problem and improving their product by more precisely incorporating the mechanical properties of the living trichomes.
So synthetic bean leaves aren’t quite ready to go in the bed bug fighter’s arsenal. But they could be in the near future. A small solace to the people currently experiencing the slow-burning house fire known as a bed bug infestation.