A Fungus, Beauveria bassiana being used to fight bed bugs

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Beauveria bassiana colonizing an insect

Beauveria bassiana colonizing an insect

A fungus, Beauveria bassiana, is now being looked at as a potential solution to bed bugs.

Bed bugs have been documented as human pests since the 17th century. Human blood is their preferred food, but they will also feed on rodents, bats, birds and pets, if humans aren’t available.

Bed bugs are small and often go unseen. They are commonly found in large buildings such as apartments, dorms, prisons, hospitals, hotels and private residences.

They are often found near sleeping areas in the seams of mattresses, box springs, cracks and crevices in bed frames, and often spread to gaps behind baseboards, pictures, wallpaper and electrical outlets. Bed bugs find their way into a home on used furniture, clothing or other items brought from infested areas. Bed bugs are erroneously thought to occur only in poor and unsanitary conditions but they can be found even in very clean environments.

Effects of bed bugs on sleep, health and hygiene is obvious to those who have them. Early detection and bed bugs protection is the key to eradicating these pests from your home and life. With the recent resurgence of bed bugs, it is imperative that effective methods of bed bugs control are developed.

Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following an integrated pest management (IPM) approach that involves a combination of tactics, such as preventive measures, sanitation, and chemicals applied to targeted sites.

Beauveria bassiana as  a potential solution to bed bugs problem

Recently entomologists at Penn State University published research in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, showing that bed bugs can be killed by this fungus which grows naturally in soils and causes disease in various types of insects.

Beauveria bassiana is found throughout the world. It is named after Agostino Bassi, an Italian entomologist, who discovered it in 1835 as the cause of the muscardine disease of silkworms. Since then, Beauveria bassiana has been found to parasitize a very wide range of insect hosts. It rapidly colonizes the host organism, killing it within a matter of days, depending on environmental conditions.

When spores of Beauveria Bassiana come in contact with the skin of susceptible insects, they germinate and grow directly through the skin to the inner body of their host. The fungus then proliferates throughout the insect’s body, producing toxins and draining the insect of nutrients, eventually killing it.

While  Beauveria bassiana  is reported to be non-toxic to humans and other vertebrates,  its potential allergenicity has been demonstrated. Beauveria bassiana  crude extracts were found to contain numerous allergens capable of being recognized by human defense mechanism. The  extracts caused allergenic reactions in several individuals, including some who had occupational exposure to the fungus. This study suggests that while Beauveria bassiana may have the potential to control bed bugs, its use in human dwellings may be limited.

For information about on mold testing or bacteria testing services, please contact Mold & Bacteria Consulting Laboratories. Please call our Ontario, Mississauga Office at 905-290-9101 or the British Columbia, Burnaby Office at 604-435-6555.

The article was edited and expanded by Dr Jackson Kung’u.

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