MELVILLE, N.Y. -- A team of Long Island, N.Y., scientists and entrepreneurs developed a new way to kill bedbugs, using webs of tiny fibres that capture the bloodsuckers much like wire snares trap larger animals.
The stress of being trapped kills the loathed pests faster, the developers say.
"When they get entangled in the fibres, they get very agitated and they apparently don't live longer than a couple of days," said Miriam Rafailovich, co-director of Stony Brook University's chemical and molecular engineering program.
The traps, which could hit the market by year's end, will be affordable and biodegradable, according to Richard Buono, of Brightwaters, N.Y., executive vice-president of FiberTrap, a new Connecticut-based company he helped found.
The product looks like a portion of corrugated roofing. The plastic fibres are "electro-spun" onto an aluminum base, much like cotton candy. Each fibre is about the thickness of 1 micrometre; it would take 50 to equal the width of a human hair.
The traps are envisioned as an alternative to poisonous chemicals or other onerous bedbug control methods, which include freezing and superheating infested areas, Buono said.
Conventional approaches don't always work, especially in multifamily buildings, with some bugs either surviving or returning from adjacent apartments. Successive generations of bedbugs can also develop resistance to pesticides.
The traps exploit the bugs' typical behaviour. At night, they come out to hunt by detecting the heat and carbon dioxide humans give off, experts say.
The traps are placed on furniture legs or the sides of beds, according to the scientists who created the special fibres.