Sleeping in red or black bedsheets? You may want to redecorate: a quirky new study suggests bedbugs are most drawn to these colours while they tend to avoid green and yellow.
Bed bugs are tiny biting, bloodsucking insects that multiply quickly and travel easily. It’s possible for anyone to end up with an infestation of bedbugs, regardless of income or type of dwelling, health officials warn.
They leave a trail of itchy, red bites along your body, while some people deal with secondary skin infections and allergic reactions.
Researchers out of the University of Florida wanted to know if bedbugs had a colour preference for their daytime hiding spots.
They created small tent-like dwellings and placed them in Petri dishes. Then they placed the bloodsuckers into the dish and gave them 10 minutes to choose a spot.
They ran a series of experiments: bedbugs were tested at various life stages, different sexes, in groups and individually. They even compared hungry and well-fed insects.
“It was speculated that a bedbug would go to any harborage in an attempt to hide. However, these colour experiments show that bedbugs do not hide in just any harborage. Rather, they will select a harborage based on its colour when moving in the light,” lead author, Dr. Corraine McNeill, explained in a statement.
Their guess was that the insects would gravitate towards the colour red, because it’s the same shade as blood, which they feed on. They were spot on, but their reasoning changed.
“After doing the study, we think they preferred red colours is because bedbugs themselves appear red, so they go to these harborages because they want to be with other bedbugs,” McNeill explained.
They avoided yellow and green, too. The scientists say it may be because these colours resemble brightly lit areas.
These are important findings, especially to those who are developing bedbug traps, the researchers say.
Pairing red with things like pheromones and carbon dioxide – which also attract bedbugs – could be a food tactic, they suggest.
But don’t rule out red and black from your wardrobe just yet.
“I think that would be stretching the results a little too much … I don’t know how far I would go to say don’t get a red suitcase or red sheets, but the research hasn’t been done yet, so we can’t really rule that out completely,” McNeill said.
It’s the first study to consider bedbugs’ colour preferences – and it almost didn’t happen. The researchers initially joked that bedbugs don’t see or use colour.
Yet preliminary tests suggested otherwise: each time, the bedbugs – hungry, full, male, female, old, young – were specifically going to certain colours over others.
“From there, we took the idea and ran with it,” McNeill said.
The full findings were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.