The results indicated that residual of human odor on soiled clothes act as an elicitor of host-seeking behavior in bed bugs. Lead researcher Dr William Hentley from the University of Sheffield in London said that leaving worn clothes exposed in sleeping areas when traveling may facilitate the dispersal of bed bugs.
‘Bed bugs are more likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes.’
Consequently, dirty laundry left in an open suitcase, or left on the floor of an infested room may attract bed bugs. One possible mechanism facilitating the global spread of bed bugs is that the insects find their way into clothing and luggage.
The team conducted experiments in two identical, temperature-controlled rooms in which four tote bags of clothes were placed - two containing soiled clothes, two with clean clothes - in the presence of bed bugs.
In each run of the experiment, one room received an increase in the concentration of CO2 to simulate human breathing. The findings indicated that in the absence of a human host, bed bugs were twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes.
They also found that in the room with increased concentrations of CO2, bed bugs were more likely to leave their refuge and initiate host-seeking behavior. Dr William Hentley said that once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be challenging to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture that can be really costly.
The study appears in journal of Scientific Reports.