Here’s news that could strike terror in the hearts of those living in warmer regions: your bedbug traps might be useless because tropical bedbugs have special modified pads on their legs that help them climb out easily.
There are two kinds of bedbugs: the common bedbug, which is the kind that’s usually found in temperature regions like the US and Europe, and the tropical kind found in warmer regions like Asia, Australia and... Florida. People often assume that the tropical and the common bedbug are basically the same, and it is almost impossible to tell the difference with the naked eye. But in a study published today in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers took photos of the tropical bedbug and found that it’s built differently in a way that helps it easily climb out of the “pitfall” trap and escape in as little as five minutes. These traps rely on a smooth inner wall surface to prevent trapped bedbugs from escaping, study co-author Chow-Yang Lee, a professor of entomology at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, told The Verge in an email.
The researchers tested four traps designed in the US. The good news is that the traps did work on the common bedbug, which lack these additional capabilities and therefore can't escape. But the other ones escaped quickly. By taking scanning electron microscope photos, the researchers noticed that the tropical bedbugs had more hairs on the knee pads on their legs to grip the trap and scale the inner wall and climb out. “We must have taken hundreds of electron micrographs, and counted the number of hairs from different angles,” wrote Lee. Plus, they had a more developed organ for secreting sticky stuff into the little hairs.
The team plans to do further research on how these different features affect the two bedbugs. How exactly does this feature help them? Since these special hairs are only found in adult bedbugs, do they play a role during the adult stage such as in mating behavior?