It's the smell of an alarmed adolescent bedbug.
And if their study bears out, and if they can synthesize, bottle and deploy the smell sufficiently, they may have found a useful weapon to add to the growing artillery against these blood-sucking pests.
The researchers, from Lund University in Sweden, were trying to determine the similarities between the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug.
The study appears in this week's issue of the Public Library of Science One, or PLoS One.
The tropical bedbug, once confined to warmer, humid climates, has been branching into more extreme latitudes, such as Florida, the United Kingdom and Australia. Researchers are only just beginning to study them.
The Swedish scientists wanted to see how similar the two species' pheromone, or smell, repertoires were.
And while they were doing this, they discovered not only do adult bedbugs hate the smell of adolescents, adolescents hate the smells of each other, too.
The researchers surmised that if you could bottle the nymph – or adolescent – essence, exterminators could use it to flush bugs out of their hiding places, and then kill them with other means, such as heat.
"(We) showed that the nymph blend elicited a stronger reaction in adults than the adult blend did," wrote the authors in their study. "With increased infestation rates in mind, our findings have important implications for the development of an alarm pheromone-based pest control method that could target both species of bedbug."
Gail Getty, a UC Berkeley entomologist who was not involved in the research, agreed.
"The research posed here provides valuable clues into the complexity of bedbug biology and hopefully provides a piece of information that will aid us in our bedbug battles," she said.
Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)