Bed bugs enjoy the colors red and black but tend to avoid brighter shades like green and yellow, a new study in the Journal of Medical Entomology reports.
Researchers from the Entomological Society of America made this discovery by creating tent-like “harborages” — which represented places bed bugs like to live — and seeing which ones the bugs would go to.
A wide range of factors — including age, whether they were in groups, or if they were hungry — influenced which color the bugs preferred. But almost every bug, regardless of age or sex, favored red and black hues and avoided green and yellow, Discovery News reports.
“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 of Union College, in a statement. “However, after doing the study, the main reason we think they preferred red colors is because bed bugs themselves appear red, so they go to these harborages because they want to be with other bed bugs.”
Last year, a ‘Bugs Without Borders’ survey conducted by the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association showed that most bed bugs reside in apartments, single-family homes, and hotels. They also have been found in college dorm rooms, offices, schools, hospitals, and daycare centers.
While the bugs’ bites can cause both itching and irritation, they are not considered a public health hazard, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the pests can cause problems for children, the elderly, and those suffering from illness.
This is the first study to analyze bed bug color preferences. The researchers hope to use the results to create more effective traps for controlling the biting pests.
“I always joke with people, ‘Make sure you get yellow sheets!'” added McNeill. “But to be very honest, I think that would be stretching the results a little too much. I think using colors to monitor and prevent bed bugs would have to be specifically applied to some sort of trap, and it would have to be used along with another strategy for control. I don’t know how far I would go to say don’t get a red suitcase or red sheets, but the research hasn’t been done yet, so we can’t really rule that out completely.”