June 19, 2019

Researcher Gerhard Gries has made the world a better place through his development of earth-friendly and low-cost methods of trapping pests such as bed bugs, mice and rats.

Gries, a professor of animal communication ecology, was recently welcomed as a Fellow by the Entomological Society of Canada while also receiving the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.

Along with his research partner and wife, Regine, the Gries have devoted their careers to creating formulas that combine animal and insect pheromones with other attractants to create trap baits and lures that are far more effective than existing methods.

Using synthetic replica of the pheromones produced and released by pest organisms is one of Gries’ key components to success.

“Pheromones are chemical messages released by animals, insects or spiders that affect the behavior of members of their own species particularly when dealing with prospective mates or resource rivals,” Gries says. “Combining these chemical messages with additional sonic, visual, or vibratory communication signals makes a lure that is irresistible to most insects and animals.”

A few years ago, Gries engineered an inexpensive and effective way to trap and kill bed bugs using their aggregation pheromone that attracts both nymph and adult bed bugs.

During the discovery process, Regine Gries endured  more than 180,000 bed bug bites to her arms to maintain the laboratory bed bug colony and to accumulate enough bed bug feces (which they release after blood feeding and which contains the aggregation pheromone) for analysis. The lure and trap are now available for purchase at retail outlets.

More recently, Gries created better mouse and rat food baits and pheromone lures. Using the same principle, he and his team developed synthetic replica of the sex attractant pheromones found in urine deposits of male and female mice and rats.

While Gries says that the sex attractant message is very potent, he made it even more effective by developing and adding the final component — an electronic gadget that emits a sound similar to that of baby rodents.

"That tells the rat now, 'OK, it smells like food, it smells like rat, it sounds like rat so it's probably safe to enter that trap box,” he says.

Now that Gries has perfected the lure, he is putting the finishing touches on a user-friendly trap that exterminates the rat without using environmentally damaging rat poison.

Gries is also currently working on lures for various blood feeding insects including pesky mosquitoes.