A recent paper by the Corn group in the Chemistry Department in collaboration with Catherine Loudon from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and two Entomology Professors at the Univ. of Kentucky describes how to use kidney bean leaves to learn how to capture bed bugs with nanofabricated surfaces.
A resurgence in bed bug infestations worldwide has greatly renewed interest in the development of more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods to manage bed bugs. Historically, in Eastern Europe, bed bugs were entrapped by leaves from bean plants, which were then destroyed. This purely physical entrapment is related to microscopic hooked hairs (trichomes) on the leaf surfaces. Using scanning electron microscopy and videography, the groups have documented how these trichomes impale bed bug feet (tarsi) at specific vulnerable locations. The physical entrapment method employed by kidney bean plants is their source of inspiration for the fabrication of novel biomimetic surfaces for bed bug trapping. Using the bean leaves as templates, they have microfabricated surfaces indistinguishable in geometry from the real leaves, including the sharp-tipped trichomes, using polymers with material properties similar to plant cell walls. These synthetic surfaces do snag the bed bugs temporarily -- but as of yet cannot hinder their locomotion as effectively as the real leaves. Further elemental analysis of the bean leaf trichomes show that the trichome tips are hardened by containing a significant amount of Silicon.