Super bed bugs immune to pesticides

DANIEL BATEMAN THE CAIRNS POST SEPTEMBER 30, 2015 5:50AM

SUPER bed bugs are breeding in everything from backpacker hostels to five-star resorts, but scientists believe they are close to finding a way to stop them.

For years, pest managers worldwide have been reporting bed bugs are becoming immune to insecticides.

In Australia bed bug infestations have risen about 5000 per cent since 1999, according to Westmead Clinical School.

University of Sydney researcher David Lilly, however, has found two ways the pests have developed this immunity.

“There’s two different things at play: there’s enzymes, which the bugs have which detoxify insecticide,’’ he said.

“And secondarily, we’ve just found a strain that has a much thicker cuticle, so basically the skin of the insect is thicker. This means it is much tougher for an insecticide to get through to where it needs to act, and once it does get in, the bugs are very good at detoxifying it before it has a chance to work.”

Mr Lilly, whose research was presented at the Australian Entomological Society Conference in Cairns on Monday, said understanding the insects’ immunity was the first step in finding an effective control.

One possible solution includes adding synergists to pesticides, to enhance the effectiveness of other chemicals.

“The enzymes can be turned down quite a lot,’’ Mr Lilly said.

“That means the insecticides can still be very effective. It should make it easier for pest managers to gain control, which is the ultimate goal we are trying to achieve.”

The researchers have been collecting bed bugs for their studies from across Australia, including Cairns.

Mr Lilly said the pests did not discriminate between different types of accommodation.

“You find them everywhere from backpacker hostels, all the way through to five-star resorts,’’ he said.

“This is mirrored across the world as well.”

Cairns Pest Control owner John O’Grady welcomed any new developments to assist in bed bug eradication.

“It’s common knowledge in the pest control industry that bed bugs are very, very difficult to control with insecticides,’’ he said. “They’re definitely becoming resistant to most insecticides.”

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