Bed bugs travel around the world on dirty laundry

A new study has shown that bed bugs travel from one city to another and from one country to another through dirty laundry that people carry around while travelling.

According to a study led by University of Sheffield scientist, leaving worn clothes exposed in sleeping areas when travelling may facilitate the dispersal of bed bugs. According to Dr William Hentley who led the study, bed bugs have been proliferating a lot recently with part of this increase attributed to an increase in low cost international travel in the tourism industry.

One possible mechanism facilitating the global spread of bed bugs is that the insects find their way into clothing and luggage, scientists point out. To arrive at this conclusion, researchers conducted experiments in two identical, temperature-controlled rooms in which four tote bags of clothes were placed – two containing soiled clothes, two with clean clothes – in the presence of bed bugs. In each run of the experiment, one room received an increase in concentration of CO² to simulate human breathing.

Scientists found that in the absence of a human host, bed bugs were twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes. The study also found that in the room with increased concentrations of C0², bed bugs were more likely to leave their refuge and initiate host-seeking behaviour.

Results from the research suggest that residual human odour on soiled clothes acts as an elicitor of host-seeking behaviour in bed bugs. Consequently, dirty laundry left in an open suitcase, or left on the floor of an infested room may attract bed bugs.