No two words stoke fear faster than “bed bugs.” They’re easy to spread, hard to see and nearly impossible, it seems, to eradicate.
Thankfully, a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology sussed out what could be a useful weapon against them: color.
The scientists made tiny tents out of folded cardstock in eight different colors and placed them in Petri dishes. They then plopped a bed bug in the middle, who had 10 minutes to decide which tent to hide in.
Overall, bed bugs strongly tended to choose red tents over the other colors, almost 29% of the time. Black was a close runner-up, drawing in bed bugs 23% of the time. Bed bugs pretty much avoided green and yellow tents.
That might be because colors like green and yellow signal the outdoors or brightly lit areas, places where bed bugs aren't typically found. And as for their love of red? "We originally thought the bed bugs might prefer red because blood is red and that's what they feed on," said study co-author Corraine McNeill, assistant professor of biology at Union College in Nebraska, in a statement. "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 because they want to be with other bed bugs, as they are known to exist in aggregations.”
Their color preferences depended on whether they were hungry, fed, old or young. Still, red and black were overwhelmingly the harbors of choice.
So should you burn your red sheets? If only it were that simple. On its own, the color of your linens probably isn’t going to inoculate you against an infestation, the scientists point out (though they're not ruling out that possibility yet). The scientists do think, however, that this insight into a bed bug's favorite color could one day enhance the efficacy of bed bug traps.