Study: Bed bugs prefer certain colors

April 26, 2016 Providence Health Team

Like the colors red and black? If not, you may be in luck: Bed bugs gravitate toward those colors a new study suggests. The findings could be used to build bed bug traps.

Researchers at the University of Florida and Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, created tiny tent-like "harborages," a location where pests seek shelter, in eight colors: black, lilac, violet, blue, green, yellow and orange.

The team placed the small structures in petri dishes and gave bed bugs 10 minutes to choose a tent. The bugs were tested in various pairings and under several conditions, including male/female, young/old, fed/unfed and individuals/groups.

Likes and dislikes

The study’s results:

  • Red tents were the choice 28.5 percent of the time.
  • Black tents came in second at 23.4 percent.
  • The yellow and green tents appeared to repel the beg bugs.

Why red?

In discussions before the color tests, the scientists believed the bed bugs might be drawn to red because they feed on blood. But after completing the tests, the team changed its hypothesis: The bed bugs preferred red because they themselves are red and are known to stick together.

Why did the bed bugs avoid the yellow and green tents? They looked too much like brightly-lit areas, thought the scientists. These findings could help researchers find ways to control the pests, including with traps.

How to prevent bed bugs

So is it time to get green and yellow sheets or bright-colored luggage? The researchers didn’t recommend that just yet. But there are ways to keep beg bugs away, at home and when you travel. The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion provides several tips.

Learn the basics about bed bugs:

  • Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown bugs that can grow to the size of an apple seed.
  • They bite people to feed on blood and they are not attracted to dirt and grime.
  • Bed bugs move from place to place by crawling into luggage, clothes, boxes and used furniture, or through small cracks between apartments.
  • They only feed at night, but leaving a light on won't stop them from biting.
  • Bites from bed bugs cause large, itchy bumps on some people. Other people have no reaction to bites.

Use a flashlight to check for bed bugs:

  • Look for bed bugs hiding in mattresses, box springs and bed frames.
  • Check under mattresses and along the seams.
  • Look for small, reddish spots; they could be bed bugs.
  • Search other furniture, such as night stands, that are near beds.

Check for bed bugs when you travel:

  • In hotels, put your luggage on a luggage rack away from walls or in a dry bathtub. Don't put it on the bed.
  • Follow the steps above to check for bed bugs in mattresses.
  • If you see signs of bed bugs, call the front desk or inform your host immediately.

Take extra care with your luggage when you get home from a trip:

  • Keep your travel clothes separate from other laundry. Wash them in warm water right away.
  • Vacuum your luggage to get rid of any bed bugs that may have hitched a ride. Take the vacuum outside and empty the contents into a plastic bag you can seal tightly. Throw the bag away in an outside garbage bin.

Act right away if you see a bed bug in your home:

  • Tell your landlord or call a pest control company if you find bed bugs in your home.
  • Use clear tape to attach the bug to a white piece of paper. Show it to a pest control expert to make sure it's a bed bug.
  • Don't try to get rid of bed bugs yourself. You could make the problem worse by spreading them to other rooms in your home.

If you have concerns about bed bugs or possible bites, talk with your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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