Life Wellbeing Bed bugs might love some colours, avoid others

Bed bugs might love some colours, avoid others

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A new study claims to have discovered that bed bugs have colour aversions, which could be useful information for Australians wanting to keep the pests away.

Results varied depending on the age and sex of the bed bugs tested, but overall the critters avoided the colours white, yellow and green, the study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology reported.

Red and black were most likely to attract the insects, the researchers found.

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“It was speculated that a bed bug would go to any harbourage in an attempt to hide,” the study’s authors said in a statement. “However, these colour experiments show that bed bugs do not hide in just any harbourage; rather, they will select a harbourage based on its colour when moving in the light.”

More specifically, female bed bugs preferred the colours lilac and violet, while male bed bugs were more attracted to black and red.

The researchers also discovered that if a bed bug was hungry or “starved”, it would more likely be attracted to orange and violet.

To achieve the results, the scientists from the University of Florida and Union College in Lincoln, New England, made tiny tents for the bed bugs out of different coloured card stock.

Each “tent” was placed in a single Petri dish and then a bed bug was placed inside.

Bed bug bites can be nasty. Photo: Getty
Bed bug bites can be nasty. Photo: Getty

The bed bugs were given 10 minutes each to decide which coloured tent they wanted to hide underneath.

Why did the bugs choose those colours?

The researchers said in a statement that it was likely the bed bugs chose to avoid white, yellow and green because those colours reminded them of the outdoors.

Bed bugs are not typically fond of outdoor environments.

Explaining their overall love for red was a more personal affair, the researchers believed.

“We originally thought the bed bugs might prefer red because blood is red and that’s what they feed on,” study co-author and assistant professor of biology at Union College in Nebraska Corraine McNeill said.

“However, after doing the study, the main reason we think they preferred red is because bed bugs themselves appear red.

“So they go to these harborages [tents] because they want to be with other bed bugs, as they are known to exist in aggregations.”

Possibly protective against bugs

The researchers were less definitive about how the findings would directly relate to bed bugs being attracted to certain coloured sheets.

They pointed out that the colour of one’s sheets would probably not completely protect a bed from infestation, but they did not want to rule that possibility out either.

What they were more certain about was that the insight into bed bugs’ favourite colours would help the design and effectiveness of traps for the critters.

In March, a pest control expert told The New Daily that anyone suspicious of bed bugs in their sheets should apply insect repellent before bed.

Telltale signs of bed bug bites are a rash on the body above the hips and occasionally blood on the sheets.

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