STATE COLLEGE, PA.—Aprehend, a mycoinsecticide developed by researchers at Penn State University, may now be the best weapon available on the market to manage bed bug infestations, which have surged in recent years. And, that’s just the kind of tool the founders of Centre Hall, Pa.-based ConidioTec want the pest-control industry to deploy in the fight against a seemingly relentless and insecticide-resistant nuisance.
According to one of ConidioTec’s founders and Chief Technology Officer, Nina Jenkins, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate in Entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State University, bed bugs were effectively killed off in the United States after World War II. Now, however, they are having a rebirth as a pest that just won’t give up.
The pesky, blood-sucking parasites are enjoying a revival in the United States because of the growth in international travel, changes in pest control and increased insecticide resistance. Getting rid of them is no better. It is extremely difficult and can be a long and expensive process.
Treatment Can Get Expensive
According to research conducted by HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend an average of $1,000 to $2,500 to exterminate bed bugs. The level of infestation, the size of the space, the type of treatment and the local area impact the cost, such as $300 for chemical treatment in a small apartment and more than $5,000 for heat treatment of a large house, for example.
Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) utilizing chemical treatment protocols typically schedule two to three repeat applications of chemical insecticides to ensure complete eradication. With growing pesticide resistance to their current chemical armory, their job is becoming more and more challenging. PMPs who use heat treatment can achieve eradication with a single visit, but initial purchase of the required equipment runs to hundreds of thousands of dollars. High energy costs and technician time during the heating process make this the most expensive option for. Even then, there are limitations on the types of property that can be successfully treated using this method.
The Aprehend technology is based on the use of a fungal biopesticide, which is highly effective against bed bugs, according to research conducted by scientists at Penn State. It works as a long-lasting barrier spray. “As bed bugs crawl across the sprayed surface, they pick up the fungal spores, and can transfer them to other bed bugs in their harborage, targeting those that don’t cross the spore barrier themselves. Aprehend controls infestations with a single application and is less costly,” said Jenkins.
According to Jenkins, bed bugs go through five stages of growth and must feed after each stage, so applying a three-month Aprehend barrier provides the optimal eradication results. Bed bugs that cross the barrier acquire fungal spores and go on to spread these among insects that remain in their harborages, resulting in greater than 95 percent population reduction in two weeks.
Jenkins added that—in part—because Aprehend is a unique product, it will first be aimed at the pest control industry. PMPs have access to the product training videos and are provided information to ensure the product is integrated into an overall pest management strategy.
Aprehend Has No Known Resistance
Equally important, as a fungal biopesticide, Aprehend has no known resistance or cross-resistance in bed bugs, making it highly effective on chemical-resistant bed bug populations and an excellent candidate for use in bed bug management.
A patent allowance was granted in May 2018 and ConidioTec has a fully executed license agreement with Penn State for exclusive use of the patented technology. EPA registration was received in March 2017, and ConidioTec currently has regulatory approval to ship to all U.S. states except California. Canada is also in the company’s sights. The company is one of the earliest success stories hatched by Invent Penn State’s entrepreneurial initiatives.
“We are excited to bring a product to market that can truly have a lasting impact,” said Jenkins. “Based on years of research in the lab and now based on the market’s interest and adoption of the product, we could not be happier about the fact that we were able to leverage the unique and comprehensive technological resources at Invent Penn State and with their help, create a company that is poised to truly solve a significant problem around the globe.”