I’ve often wondered if the hairs on my arms and legs actually benefit me in any way, because they are certainly not providing any insulation against the bitter winds currently sweeping the UK. Researchers from Sheffield University have been exploring the theory that human hair may act as a detection system for parasites. If parasites such as mosquitoes or fleas trigger the hair alarm system, our brain signals the hand to move in with a sharp slap. That’s the theory anyway.
Just to see what would happen, Sheffield University researchers placed hungry bed bugs on the arms of 29 brave volunteers (obviously not me). Half the bed bug victims had shaved arms and the other half retained their body hair. The test was to discover if the bed bugs preferred their humans hairy or not hairy.
The findings were published in the journal Biology Letters and researchers reported that bed bugs preferred the hairless arms, probably because it gave them an easier access to blood vessels. A bed bug takes between three and 10 minutes to feed, a long time to avoid a good slap from a human. Bed bugs prefer to bite under the cover of darkness and leave three tell-tale bite marks, referred to in the pest control industry as breakfast, lunch and dinner. An even more sinister fact about bed bugs is that they are unlikely to wake their victim, because they inject an anaesthetic whilst drawing the blood from its host.
In the summer I often bitten on my hair-free ankles by beasts unknown and I only ever get bitten below the knee by mosquitoes. But then the OH is very hairy and get eaten alive by anything with six legs. What does that mean?