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Reality Check: A solution to the bed bug problem

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In homes, they're a nuisance. In hotels, they're a business bust. Bed bugs multiply in just a few short days, and are practically impossible to get rid of. Scientists in Lexington are now taking steps to eliminate them with a little help from Mother Nature.

Bedbugs are insects that seem like they multiply in minutes, and fill up a room within days. They nest in furniture and bedding, and getting them out often proves to be the problem.

"Heavy use of insecticides and heat treatment for the whole home or freezing bedbugs, those can be very expensive, very labor intensive approaches," explains University of Kentucky's Dr. Ken Haynes. Dr. Haynes and his lab partner Dr. Michael Potter started studying an old Eastern European story about reducing bedbug populations.

"They were using bean leaves to help them reduce populations of bedbugs. And they would scatter those bean leaves around the bed, the bed bugs would crawl on them, get snagged by these tiny little plant hairs that are hooked on the bean leaves then they would the next day dispose of them," Dr. Haynes says, "ultimately the idea is we could somehow mimic those hairs in order to use them for practical purposes."

Covering a room with the actual leaves of a kidney bean is just too impractical to keep up, notes Dr. Haynes.

"That would require a huge effort to continue to produce bean leaves year round since bed bugs are around all year."

Dr. Haynes says research is a long way off from creating a synthetic copy of bean leaves, but knowing how they work and how they stop bedbugs in their tracks is a big step in the right direction.


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