A man in New York nearly killed himself this week by setting his rental car on fire after trying kill bed bugs with rubbing alcohol, then lighting a cigarette.

A New Mexico State University researcher has better solutions to getting rid of these pests. Assistant professor Alvaro Romero is head of NMSU’s Urban Entomology program. His research is focused on finding ways to prevent bed bugs hiding in personal items and evaluating repellants that people can apply to luggage and personal items, particularly in transitory locations such as hotels.

Romero began researching bed bugs in 2005 and was hired in 2012 to head the new Urban Entomology program at New Mexico State University.

"This is an urban pest that is really impacting people's lives," said Romero. "We want to research how to control these pests. We need to know the enemy."

Alternative approaches such as heat treatments are often used to eliminate bed bugs without the use of harsh chemicals.

The heat procedure using a steamer is one of the measures traditionally used in killing bed bugs. Taking the temperature to 214 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit guarantees instant mortality. The second measure is the use of certain chemicals that are effective at killing bed bugs, and those are used according to the label.

Bed bugs are nocturnal pests and exploit crevices and cracks as hiding places. Romero said one of the most interesting findings in his research has been the similarity of bed bugs to humans or other animals in that they have a biological clock, which perfectly coordinates with humans' sleep time.

"Some people ask me if they sleep with the lights on, will bed bugs bite? Yes, because they have a biological clock that tells them it's time to feed."

The sooner bed bugs are detected, the better chances of eradicating an infestation. However, finding bed bugs, especially small populations, can be difficult since the pests are quite small and are especially good at hiding in unusual and sometimes inaccessible places.To connect with Dr. Alvaro, email him at [email protected] or 575-646-5550.