Our focus this year is fighting bed bugs, a worldwide invasive pest, which is invading homes and biting humans for their blood. These tiny bugs became harmful to humans from the moment we made caves our homes, as the original hosts of bed bugs were bats. Nowadays humans don’t live in caves, but this temporary troglodyte dwelling came with a cost: fighting against an insect addicted to human blood. While their bite usually doesn’t transmit any disease, it still induces serious dermatological and allergy issues.
We aim to find an efficient solution for removing bedbugs from infested living spaces. Our strategy consists of two integrated parts: using pheromones as a chemical lure that can attract bedbugs to a trap where they will be eliminated using Beauveria bassiana, a highly virulent fungus to bedbugs, but safe for humans.
The pheromones that we plan to use, are chemical molecules produced by the bugs themselves. They use them to navigate in space. Beauveria bassiana has a great ability to penetrate the protective layer of a bedbug (i.e. cuticle), leading consequently to the death of the insect by altering its circulatory system.