Assessing the Ability of Various Plant Essential Oils and Sesquiterpenoids to Repel Bed Bugs

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Crystal, Kylie
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


Bed bugs are hematophagous insects in the family Cimicidae and are considerable pests in communities throughout the world, in both developing and developed nations. Due to the recent resurgence of insecticide-resistant populations, they have become harder and harder to control and eradicate. The principal objective of this research is to study the repellent effects of a variety of sesquiterpenoids to bed bugs. Sesquiterpenoids are a class of chemicals isolated from plants that are capable of repelling a variety of insect pests, including a number of other hematophagous insect species. However, their repellent effects have not been classified in bed bugs. By identifying numerous molecules that are repellent to bed bugs, we may be able to identify new chemistry that can be used to better control bed bug populations in areas that are prone to infestation. For this study, we will utilize a treated-filter paper assay and expose individual bed bugs to a variety of sesquiterpenoid compounds isolated from plants. This research will identify which sesquiterpenoid molecules are the most repellent to bed bugs and also identify which chemical properties lead to high levels of repellency. Conducting this research will potentially lead to the discovery of a compound that effectively repels bed bugs in a real-world setting and better characterize the potential of sesquiterpenoids to repel bed bugs.

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