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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hairy limbs keep bed bugs at bay

I always knew there had to be some advatage to being hairy and now I know. Hungry bugs placed on shaved arms were more likely to try to feed compared with those on unshaved arms, the journal Biology Letters reported. Researchers say the hair slows down the bed bugs and warns the victim. Pest controllers say the UK is currently experiencing a steep rise in the number of bed bug infestations.


Prof Michael Siva-Jothy, from Sheffield University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, recruited 29 brave volunteers to test the theory further, watching the bedbugs as they found a place to feed and removing them only as they were about to bite.

He found that more layers of both longer visible hairs and finer, "vellus" hairs near the surface appeared to work as a deterrent to the insects, with the finer hairs also acting as an early warning system. "If you have a heavy coat of long thick hairs it is easier for parasites to hide”

Prof Siva-Jothy said: "Our findings show that more body hairs mean better detection of parasites - the hairs have nerves attached to them and provide us with the ability to detect displacement." He said they also slowed down the insect as it searched for a tasty spot to bite. 

"The results have implications for understanding why we look the way we do, what selective forces might have driven us to look the way we do, and may even provide insight for better understanding of how to reduce biting insects' impact on humans." However, even though men are naturally hairier than women, they do not appear to be bitten less often.

So there you have it. If you're hairy like me, you might not make it onto the front cover of FHM, but at least you'll sleep well at night!

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