Penn State entomologist are claiming that naturally occurring microorganisms called biopesticides might be the solution to our bedbug problems. The quick increase in the bedbug population throughout North America and Europe has brought up new concerns over the amount of pesticides being used in frequented public places. Biopesticides might be a “green” alternative visit their website. Nina Jenkins, senior research associate in entomology says that a natural fungus which causes diseases in insects , Beauveria bassiana has shown encouraging results in recent bedbug control tests. Jenkins explains, “They are natural diseases that exist in the environment. They are relatively easy to produce in a lab and stable, so you can use them much like chemical pesticides.”
The researchers completed the study by using an airbrush sprayer to apply spore formulations to paper and cotton jersey. Cotton jersey was chosen because it is a standard bedsheet material. The researchers then sprayed the same control surfaces with blank oil only. After drying at room temperature overnight, 3 out of the 10 groups of bedbugs were exposed to one of the two surfaces for exactly one hour. Once removed, they were placed on clean filter paper in a petri dish to be monitored. The results show that all of the bedbugs exposed to the biopesticide became infected and died within five days of exposure. She and her colleagues have published their results in the most recent issue of the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.
Once of the most encouraging findings was that the bedbugs carried the biopestidcide back to their hiding places, infecting all of the bedbugs that did not go out and search for food. This is important because bedbugs are often in hard to reach and hard to find locations. Jenkins says, “The fungal spores were transferred from the exposed bug to their unexposed companions, and we observed almost a hundred percent infection. So they don’t even need to be directly exposed, and that’s something chemicals cannot do.” So far, B. bassiana is proving to be an effective, and fast, alternative to regular pesticides. Moving forward, researchers will test effectiveness in more “lifelike” settings where harborage areas are present and then start field work.