Auburn researchers investigating what makes bedbugs tick

6 Jun

Outstanding Graduate Student honoree Zach DeVries is researching how bedbugs’ metabolic rates are affected by feeding and starvation and what is at play metabolically that enables bedbugs to survive a year or longer without feeding.

The first thing that Zach DeVries does when he opens the door to a new hotel room is to put his luggage in the bathtub.

“I’m not being paranoid,” DeVries says. “I’m being cautious.”

It is a caution born of insight that DeVries has acquired over the past couple of years as an Auburn University master’s-level entomology graduate student whose research is aimed at discovering basic biological information to add to the relatively shallow body of scientific knowledge about bedbugs.

So there is method to his madness: He puts his bags in the tub so that, if his subsequent examination of the bed and everything around it reveals the tell-tale signs of bedbugs – mainly fecal and blood stains in the seams and crevices of mattresses – he can grab that luggage and scram.

“All it takes is one female bedbug that has been mated getting into your luggage and going home with you, and you could have a real problem,” DeVries says, noting that the insects can lay as many as 500 eggs in their lifetimes.

Working under the guidance of Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology head and professor Art Appel, DeVries is studying bedbug metabolism – specifically, how the tiny pests’ metabolic rates are affected by feeding and starvation and what is at play metabolically that enables bedbugs to survive a year or longer without feeding.

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