Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

It’s a aphorism I tell my son before shutting off the lights at bedtime.  My parents said it to me, their parents said it to them, and so on.  We all know the saying, but unlike the boogie-man, goblins, or ghosts, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are a real “monster” that could be lurking in your bed and home. What is scary about bed bugs is that anyone can get an infestation (it doesn’t matter if your clean or dirty) and they are almost impossible to get rid of.  Luckily for us there is a new pheromone identified from the bugs frass (insect poop) and cuticle (wax on the insects body) that can be used to monitor and control bed bug outbreaks. We no longer have to worry about the bed bugs bitting and can finally “sleep well”.

Bed bugs have been feeding on humans for 10,000  years!  In fact, Archeologists found 3,550 year old fossilized bed bugs in human dwellings in Egypt (Panagiotakopulu & Buckland 1999).  Bed bugs really began to spread and thrive in America alongside the arrival of the railroad and increased travel. People began moving and distributing the little nightmares from inns and hotels to their homes. However, over the last few decades, bed bugs have been in quiet descent (perhaps due to the use of DDT and other insecticides)… until recently.  Now there are increased reports of bed bug infestations all over North America (in high rise apartments, homes, schools, hospitals, clothing stores, public transit, etc).

They have become a global epidemic not only because adult insects are such good travellers (Wang et al. 2010), spreading throughout public and domestic dwellings, but also because the eggs are hidden well and almost impossible to kill.  The best way to get rid of bed bugs are to throw items in the dryer at a high heat, minimum 120°F/ 48.8°C. Unfortunately, you can’t put everything in the dryer, so many people throw items out or resort to powerful insecticides.

Thanks to scientists (also my friends and colleagues!) at Simon Fraser University we can indeed sleep well at night.  They used state of the art scientific equipment to identify a natural pheromone blend that acts as a chemical hypnosis.  The pheromone blend attracts bed bugs and keeps them in one spot.  Altogether, keeping them out of your bed!

Please watch the video made by my colleague Mike Hrabar that explains and shows exactly how this aggregation pheromone works!  It’s part of the NSERC Science, Action! scholarship competition.  If you enjoyed the video, be sure to share and give him a “like”  in Youtube!

Read the full article:

Gries, R, Britton, R, Holmes, M, Zhai, HM, Draper, J, & Gries, G. 2015.  Bed bug aggregation pheromone finally identified. Angewandte Chemie- International, 54(4):1135-1138.


Cohen, J. 2010. They’re Back: A Bed Bug History.  Retrieved March 9th, 2015,

Hrabar, M. Bed bug aggregation. [Cover Photo] 2010. Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Panagiotakopulu, E. & Buckland, P.C. 1999. Cimex lectularius L., the common bed bug from Pharaonic Egypt. Antiquity 73. 

Wang, C., Saltzmann, K., Chin, E. Bennett, G.W., & Gibb, T. 2010. Characteristics of Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), Infestation and Dispersal in a High-Rise Apartment Building. Journal of Economic Entomology. 103(1): 172-177

One thought on “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

  1. I went to see Washington’s home in Vermont. The guide showing us around the place said this about one of the beds. This bed was just a frame and there were pull ropes criss-crossed and no mattress. That was the actual bed. You were lucky to get a straw-stuffed mattress. “Sleep tight” meant to pull the ropes tight so they would be sturdy to sleep on. Bed bugs was common in those days, were everywhere.

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