Study Finds Bed Bugs Strongly Prefer Red and Black Colors

Posted on April 25, 2016

Color options in bed bug color test

A new study has found that bed bugs prefer black and red colors for harborages. The researchers from the University of Florida and Union College in Lincoln, NE also found that bed bugs seem to avoid colors like green and yellow.

The authors of the study say, "It was speculated that a bed bug would go to any harborage in an attempt to hide. However, these color experiments show that bed bugs do not hide in just any harborage; rather, they will select a harborage based on its color when moving in the light."

The researchers found that bed bug's color preference changes as they grow older. They also like different colors when they are alone then when they are with other bed bugs. Color choice also varied depending on whether the bed bugs were hungry or full. Male and female bed bugs also have different color preferences.

Study co-author Dr. Corraine McNeill says, "We originally thought the bed bugs might prefer red because blood is red and that's what they feed on. 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, as they are known to exist in aggregations."

A theory for why the bed bugs dislike yellow and green could be because it resembles brightly-lit areas and the bugs don't want to be seen. The researchers don't advise throwing out your black and red sheets or luggage just yet.

Dr. McNeill says, "I always joke with people, 'Make sure you get yellow sheets!' 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."

A research paper on the study was published here in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Photo: Dr. Corraine McNeill