Penn State researchers are reformulating an exterminator spray to combat bedbugs in chicken houses.
Entomology professor Nina Jenkins started developing the biopesticide Aprehend in 2011 and, with her team, commercialized the product in 2017.
The product was originally meant for places like homes and hotels, where bedbugs can be a hard-to-kill nuisance.
But Jenkins is now working with entomologist Erika Machtinger to adapt the treatment to the dusty world of the poultry house.
Jenkins spoke about the project in an Oct. 8 call with PennAg Industries Association.
When they hitchhike into poultry houses, bedbugs bite the chickens to drink their blood. In heavy infestations, the birds may experience feather loss, lesions and anemia.
Bedbugs are tricky to manage because they can feed on many animals, including rodents, and they are developing resistance to common pyrethroid insecticides.
“You only need one to survive to re-establish,” Jenkins said.
Aprehend is not a pyrethroid. It is an oil-based spray that contains Beauveria bassiana, a fungus that infects the bedbug’s blood system and kills it. The fungus spreads readily among bedbugs but does not infect humans.
The product, available only to licensed pest control operators, works in dark, undisturbed household settings for up to three months.
Poultry buildings don’t provide such ideal conditions.
“It’s going to be an issue with feather dust and dander,” Jenkins said.
Before Aprehend can get to poultry houses, Machtinger and Jenkins need to secure funding. The product must also go through the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval process, which could take 18 months.
Aprehend would be just one part of a broader integrated pest management approach to bedbugs.
Poultry houses should have dedicated worker clothing that is run through a dryer, washed in hot water and then dried again.
Workers should also have designated shoes for poultry house use and practice good biosecurity, said Gregory Martin, a Penn State Extension educator.