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Study Shows Dirty Laundry Attracts Bed Bugs

Leaving dirty clothing all over your room, whether at home or a hotel, could attract bed bugs. A recent study by entomologists at the University of Sheffield, published in Scientific Reports, tried to determine why bed bugs infest your mattress and where they could be hiding. The study shows that:

“soiled clothing is significantly more attractive than clean clothing to active bed bugs moving within a bedroom sized arena and elevation of CO2 to a level that simulates human occupancy in the same arena appears to initiate search behavior rather than direct it. Our results show, for the first time, how leaving worn clothing exposed in sleeping areas when traveling can be exploited by bed bugs to facilitate passive dispersal.”

Details of the Bed Bug Study

The researchers hypothesized that bed bugs aren’t specifically attracted to humans. Rather, like other blood-sucking pests, they’re after the smell and degree of carbon dioxide exhaled. To conduct a scientific study, the entomologists created a verifiable experiment that tested their hypothesis. Would bed bugs gravitate towards dry ice (or frozen carbon dioxide) when left out in the open for a couple of hours? The scientists aimed to verify if the bed bugs would view the CO2 as fresh blood they love from other living things.

Additionally, to test the initial hypothesis, the researchers looked at dirty laundry, which smells like humans. The team recruited volunteers who wore white cotton T-shirts and socks for three hours. Once the clothes sufficiently smelled like human, the volunteers put them in a tote bag. At the same time, bed bugs in a container were placed in a controlled room and given fresh human blood. Then, four tote bags – two with dirty laundry – were spaced evenly throughout the room. The two without laundry served as the control group.

Results of the Bed Bug Experiment

At this point, the researchers allowed the bed bugs four days to crawl around the space. During some tests, the room also included a block of dry ice to simulate a human. Throughout these observations, researchers found that bed bugs were twice as likely to go after the dirty laundry. Not having dry ice in the space appeared to intensify this behavior. Through these results, the researchers concluded that you should consider how and where you keep your dirty clothing, especially when traveling. Never leave it out in the open and have a solution for storing it away. Because bed bugs easily hitch onto items, make sure dirty clothes are kept in a separate compartment from your clean ones. When you return home, wash everything right away.

After your home has been infested, bed bug extermination almost always requires a professional. If you’re currently dealing with these pests, call us to make an appointment today.