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Sharks and bedbugs making the news

Well it has been reported that the pest problems in Australia seem slightly larger than ours in the UK. The main reason for this is that currently there is a 15 feet long white shark, aka Jaws, swimming around in the waters off Newcastle, 100 miles north of Sydney. Unusually for a large predator such as this, it has been in the same area for a week. The authorities have closed the beaches after numerous sightings. Despite this, some people are still swimming and surfing and acting like it’s business as usual. This shark weighs in at 1.7 tons, with a bite radius that would cut an adult in two. Apparently, this is the largest recorded white shark on record in this area. Perhaps folk are banking on the fact that it may be a friendly fish, most of Australia’s fatal shark attacks of late have taken place on the west coast. Sharks hunt their prey in the surf-zone, finding surfers and swimmers taste best between where the surf breaks and the shoreline, in relatively shallow water. You have been warned, stick to Margate this summer, the only thing likely to bite you will be a crab!

In the UK our problem is the ever resilient bedbug. Constantly evolving and clinging onto bedframes and mattresses, terrorising us while we sleep and biting us for a tasty meal. Why do they find human skin so attractive? One scientist, Dr Regine Gries has been trying to find out. Over five years she offered up her arms as food to more than 1000 bedbugs every week in a quest to find out the answer. This is a mission to find the first effective bedbug bait that can be used to lure the insect into a trap. Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to spot quickly, a nightmare to evict and appear to be growing more resilient to insecticides. Dr Gries found that the compound histamine combined with a blend of pheromones are the crucial ingredients that makes human skin so appealing to bedbugs. Adult bedbugs are oval, flat, reddish brown and c5mm long. They can squeeze into cracks in furniture and mattress seams, making them difficult to spot and spray. Females lay 200-500 eggs in a few months. Dr Gries endured 180,000 bedbug bites to feed the large colony required for her research, acting as their “host”. She is now working with a Canadian company to develop an effective and affordable trap. Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite!

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