Health: Tips on how to keep pesky bed bugs away from your laundry

A bed bug
A bed bug

New research from the University of Sheffield has revealed that bed bugs are attracted to your dirty laundry.

Dr William Hentley and colleagues from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences have shown that leaving dirty clothes exposed in sleeping areas can encourage bed bugs, potentially allowing them to travel home with you.

Bed bugs are small insects, which creep out at night and feed on human blood. Their bites are usually painless, but can sometimes cause bad reactions such as itchiness or even blisters.

Living in your mattress, bed bugs can be a very annoying pest. Signs that you might have bed bugs include tiny white eggs or small black spots in the crevices of your mattress and furniture, and blood spots on your sheets, which can occur if you squash a bug in the night.

Another tell tale sign is an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom.

In modern times, bed bugs may seem like a thing of the past. However, the pesky pests have recently increased worldwide, and are still an issue in poorer communities.

The increase in bed bug numbers is has been partly attributed to an increase in cheap travel to areas where bed bugs are more common.

However, exactly how the flightless insects were travelling great distances was previously unknown.

New scientific findings reveal that bed bugs may be finding their way into clothing or luggage, allowing them to vacation closer to home.

Dr. Hentley at the University of Sheffield conducted experiments in two bed bug infested rooms, each containing four bags of clothing. Two bags held dirty worn clothes and two with clean clothes.

Additionally, one of the rooms received an increase in concentration of carbon dioxide, in order to simulate human breathing.

The scientists found that the bed bugs were twice as likely to swarm towards the bags containing dirty clothes, compared to the bags which contained clean clothes. In other words, be careful airing your dirty laundry, as it is much more likely to attract bed bugs.

The study also found that in the room where a human presence was simulated with carbon dioxide, bed bugs were more likely to leave their creepy crevices, in order to seek out a human host.

The researchers suggest that the leftover human odours on dirty clothes is key in attracting bed bugs.

Dirty laundry left on the floor may be more than untidy, and could be attracting bed bugs into your luggage in a bed bug infested hotel room.

More than an annoying pest, bed bugs can be a serious problem for both hotel and homeowners. Once bed bugs have checked in, they are very tricky and very costly to get rid of. Previous research from the University of Sheffield has shown that if even one pregnant bed bug is missed when exterminating a room, this is enough for an infestation to continue.

The new findings reveal that keeping dirty laundry out of bugs reach, such as in a sealed bag could be the key to preventing their spread.