A centuries-old bedbug remedy has scientists full of beans - kidney beans to
The bean leaves used to trap bedbugs hundreds of years ago in southeastern
Europe may offer a model for a non-toxic, modern-day treatment, say US
The biting nocturnal insects have invaded US homes, hotels, schools,
hospitals and more in recent years, causing widespread itching, burning and
"Plants exhibit extraordinary abilities to entrap insects," the study's lead
author, Catherine Loudon, an entomologist at the University of California,
Irvine, said in a university news release. "Modern scientific techniques let us
fabricate materials at a microscopic level, with the potential to 'not let the
bedbugs bite' without pesticides."
Kidney beans to combat bedbugs
Microscopic hairs on kidney bean leaves stab the insects, effectively
trapping them, the researchers discovered. They are using their findings to
develop non-toxic synthetic materials that will mimic the effects of the bean
leaves and help prevent bedbug infestations, according to the report.
Methods currently used to combat bedbug infestations include freezing,
extreme heating, vacuuming and pesticides.
The age-old Balkan treatment involved scattering kidney bean leaves on the
floor next to beds to ensnare the blood-thirsty critters.
Within seconds of stepping on a leaf, the bugs were trapped. Microscopic
hooked hairs on the leaves, known as trichomes, stab the bugs' legs and
immobilise them, the researchers explained.
"Nature is a hard act to follow, but the benefits could be enormous," study
co-author Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky,
Lexington, said in the news release. "Imagine if every bedbug inadvertently
brought into a dwelling was captured before it had a chance to bite and
multiply," Potter said.
The researchers have modelled materials after the bean leaves in an attempt
to reproduce their immobilising effect. So far, synthetic surfaces have slowed
the bugs down, but have yet to stop them in their tracks.
The study authors said more research is needed. They noted that bean leaves
themselves are not a practical long-term solution because they dry out and don't
last long, but synthetic materials might provide a safe and effective
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information
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