As it turns out, your personal style may be affecting your chances of getting a bedbug infestation, according to the BBC. Using colored shelters in dishes, researchers discovered that bedbugs apparently have color preferences for the materials they infest.
Bedbugs like wood and fabric rather than plastic and metals, according to the BBC. The researchers found the critters also like red and black over yellow- and green-colored materials.
“I always joke with people, ‘Make sure you get yellow sheets!’ But to be very honest, I think that would be stretching the results a little too much,” researcher Corraine McNeill said, according to the BBC. “I don’t know how far I would go to say don’t get a red suitcase or red sheets, but the research hasn’t been done yet, so we can’t really rule that out completely.”
McNeill said the researchers first thought the bedbugs might like red because it’s the color of blood, but they now believe it has to do with bedbugs being red themselves, the BBC reported.
The researchers also think bedbugs may not like yellow and green because those colors remind them of bright, difficult-to-hide-in places. There seems to be a trend here, since studies have shown mosquitoes and sandflies- two other vampiric nuisances- are also not fans of yellow and green, according to the BBC.
Sign of infestation
If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:
• Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
• Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
• Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
• An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.
If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.
Can cause heart-damaging chagas disease
It was previously thought that Chagas disease, which kills an estimated 50,000people per year, was exclusively carried by an insect called the kissing bug. But new research shows that bedbugs can also spread the disease, at least among mice.
University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist Michael Levy says he’s worried that bedbugs could distribute the parasitic disease among people, although there is no proof yet that this is happening.
Chagas disease is caused by a parasitic protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi that slowly attacks internal organs like the heart. At first, it has very few outward signs. Then, about 20 years after infection, some 20 percent of infected people develop very serious problems, including arrhythmias and even sudden death from cardiac arrest, Levy tells Newsweek.
Due to this time lag and lack of recognition, Chagas disease has become a “silent epidemic”—it’s the most deadly parasite in the Americas, but the public doesn’t know anything about it, Levy says.
The parasite is spread by kissing (or “assassin”) bugs, which generally feed at night and go for uncovered areas like the face, often around the eyes or lips. These insects don’t directly spread the disease through their bite, but rather through feces; the protozoan can be transmitted when their waste is spread into wounds via scratching, or by entering the body through the eyes or mouth, Levy says.
Luckily, kissing bugs cannot generally get to humans at night if they live in well-made buildings. That’s one reason why Chagas disease transmission isn’t a significant problem in the U.S.—the few cases seen in the States are mostly brought in by travelers returning from Latin America.
In the past few years, however, bedbug populations have skyrocketed in the U.S. If these insects could spread the disease, and, says Levy, “it would be a disaster.… If Chagas starts to spread, we wouldn’t know it, due to the slow nature of the disease.”
In a study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, researchers showed that bedbugs can become infected after feeding on diseased mice. They also found in another experiment that protozoa-carrying bedbugs can pass on the parasite to mice.
Since the protozoa infects many mammals, including mice and humans, there’s no reason to think bedbugs couldn’t spread the disease among people too, Levy says, although he concedes there may be some as-yet-unknown reason why bedbugs couldn’t transmit the disease.
“Any time you have an infectious disease and identify a new route of infection, that’s something to be concerned about,” says Rick Tarleton, a Chagas disease expert at the University of Georgia who wasn’t involved in the study.
Levy and colleagues demonstrated that many bedbugs do defecate shortly after feeding, increasing the chances that this insect could transmit the disease to humans via open wounds or another route. And bedbugs have an even closer relationship with humans than kissing bugs; certain infestations involve scores of insects feeding on humans every night, Levy says.
“Just for example let’s say you have bedbugs in a bed, and an infant in that bed with a pacifier, which comes into contact with [insect feces] and goes into the mouth,” Tarleton says. “That’s a potential transmission.”
Officials have made strides at reducing Chagas disease in countries like Peru, by going door-to-door and spraying insecticides for kissing bugs. But these insects are much easier to kill than bedbugs, which may be resistant to various chemicals and harder to find, Levy says. If bedbugs, which are spreading throughout South America, pick up Chagas, it could set back all of this progress by decades, he adds.
“I think the [study] is concerning, but it’s not an over-the-top disaster,” Tarleton says. Not yet, anyway.
Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:
• Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
• Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
• Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
• Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
• Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
• Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.