Getting rid of bed bugs once they get established in your home is a major problem. They are becoming resistant to many commonly used sprays, they hide in the tiniest spaces, and they travel all over the world in our luggage. While not actually dangerous to our health, bed bugs are nuisance we can do without. A group of Penn State researchers came up with the idea to attack bed bugs with their natural enemy – a fungus called Beauveria bassiana. The results of their study have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.
The power of biopesticides
Organic farmers are very familiar with Beauveria bassiana, because it is used, together with other pest natural enemies, to kill many plant parasites such as aphids and thrips. The fungus works rapidly and once a bug is infected, it dies very fast. Like a number of other biopesticides, Beauveria is an effective, environmentally friendly and cheap pest control. It exists naturally in the soil, so it is a natural part of our environment.
Biopesticides are becoming an important alternative to chemical pesticides. Chemical pesticides accumulate in the soil, in the produce and in the water tables, and can cause serious health problems to humans. With prolonged use of chemical pesticides, many plant pests become resistant to them and they have to be used in larger quantities or stronger doses, increasing the danger.
Bed bugs remedies
Like with other parasites, there are effective chemical pesticides for bed bugs. But, because they have to be used in domestic, inside environment, their effects on human health can be even more serious than with agricultural pesticides. That is one of the reasons researchers tried to see how would Beauveria bassiana affect bed bugs.
The results were beyond their expectations. Not only that the bed bugs sprayed with Beauveria bassiana died within five days, but they also infected other bed bugs in the same environment, which were not in contact with the spray. This is particularly important with bed bugs, which can hide in unreachable spaces, such as behind the light switch plates and baseboards.
The researchers found that the Beauveria fungus as a spray is stable and easy to reproduce. It is also very rarely reported to affect humans and other animals. Like with any other fungus, which reproduce with spores, people with asthma and other breathing disorders should be careful not to be exposed to it. But, while scientists are excited about their findings, they are far from offering us a practical application.