After more than 180,000 bedbug bites, biologist Regine Gries hopes she's drained the life out of the global bedbug epidemic.
Ms. Gries, along with her husband and biologist Dr. Gerhard Gries, chemist Dr. Robert Britton and a group of students at Simon Fraser University have discovered what they believe is the world's first effective and affordable bedbug bait and trap.
Dr. Gries believes their research will help address the "biggest challenge" in dealing with bedbugs – early detection.
"This trap will help landlords, tenants and pest-control professionals determine whether premises have a bedbug problem, so that they can treat it quickly. It will also be useful for monitoring the treatment's effectiveness," said Dr. Gries.
Bedbugs were once thought to be eradicated in industrial countries but in the last 20 years have made a resurgence to infest everything from low-rental housing to high-end hotels.
The SFU researchers have found a set of chemical attractants, or pheromones, to lure the pests into traps and keep them there.
More than a 1,000 bedbugs have been "fed" each week for five years by Ms. Gries so her colleagues could gather bedbug skin and feces samples to be analyzed.
She became the unintentional "host" after realizing her immunity to the usual itching and swelling most feel after a bite.
The traps have already been successfully tested in bedbug-infested apartments in Metro Vancouver. The researchers are now working with a company based out of Victoria, B.C. to make the product commercially available by next year – which means Ms. Gries isn't done feeding the bedbugs yet.
"I'm not too thrilled about this," Ms. Gries confessed. "But knowing how much this technology will benefit so many people, it's all worth it."
Bedbugs were not initially considered a carrier of disease but scientists have recently discovered they can transmit a parasite that can lead to serious heart and digestive problems.
If you do find bedbugs in your home, Dr. Gries recommends calling in extermination professionals and administering heat treatment. Rooms should be heated to at least 45 degrees, lethal temperatures to the pests.
"No matter where they are hiding, it will kill the bedbugs."