Natural fungus may be key to killing bed bugs

WASHINGTON – Bed bugs can be a concern for hotel guests, and a new way of killing bugs without chemicals is showing a lot of promise for banishing the unwanted critters.

Entomologists at Pennsylvania State University say the key appears to be a natural fungus that causes disease in the insects.

Researchers sprayed spores from the fungus Beauveria bassiana onto paper and cotton jersey, which is used in linens. Bed bugs were exposed to the surfaces for one hour, and then placed in a petri dish to be monitored. Within five days, all the bugs exposed to the fungus were killed.

The exposed bugs passed the fungus on to unexposed bugs – killing them as well.

Nina Jenkins, a senior research associate in entomology and author of the study published in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, says the fact other bugs were infected is significant because it means the fungus may make it easier to kill hard-to-reach bugs.

“Bedbugs tend to be cryptic, and they’ll hide in the tiniest crevices,” Jenkins says in a Penn State news release. “They don’t just live in your bed. They hide behind light switches and power sockets and in between the cracks of the baseboard and underneath your carpet.”

The researchers are continuing to study the fungus and effectiveness of exposure times.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow @mbaschWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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