A recent University of Sheffield study finds that bed bugs are spreading to new areas around the world by attaching themselves to dirty laundry left out in sleeping areas.
Lead author Dr. William Hentley says that the finding may explain why bed bugs have undergone a resurgence in recent years, as consumers are likely picking up the pests when traveling and staying in hotels.
“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks, but no one has really talked about how they get into the house in the first place,” Hentley said in a statement to Gizmodo. “Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”
Bed bugs drawn to dirty laundry
Hentley came to his conclusions after conducting experiments in two identical, temperature-controlled rooms containing bed bugs. The researchers placed four tote bags filled with clothes in the room – two of which contained dirty clothes and two that contained clean clothes.
In each experiment, the researchers increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the room to simulate human breathing. They found that bed bugs were twice as likely to be drawn to bags with soiled clothes rather than clean clothes in rooms that did not simulate human presence.
If carbon dioxide levels were increased, the bugs searched even harder for a human host to latch onto.
Keep your laundry sealed
Hentley suggests that consumers consider keeping dirty laundry well contained while traveling to avoid bringing home any unwanted pests.
“Bed bugs are a huge problem for hotels and homeowners, particularly in some of the world’s biggest and busiest cities. Once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture than can be really costly,” he said.
“Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.”