Bed Bugs Don’t Need Beds, or Humans, to Survive. They Never Did…

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The rise of bed bugs preceded modern humans by at least 100 million years. They survived the extinction that killed the dinosaurs. Could they outlive us all?

By Katherine J. Wu   May 16, 2019

Nova.jpgDon’t be fooled by their charming name: Bed bugs don’t need beds to set up shop. These intrepid insects will colonize pretty much any place where people pile up, including hotels, movie theaters, libraries, even the occasional subway—ready and waiting to ruin a human life with their bloodsucking mouthparts and death-defying durability.

It’s easy to dismiss bed bugs as loathsome pests that exist to make humans miserable. But in reality, bed bugs predate humans by leaps and bounds, making us the unwanted interlopers that first crossed into their turf.

According to a newly mapped bed bug family tree, these puny pests have been guzzling the blood of other animals for more than 100 million years, long before the rise of both modern humans and bats, their most common host. The research, published today in the journal Current Biology, shows that the bed bug timeline stretches further back than even the mass extinction that wiped out 75 percent of Earth’s plant and animal species, including all dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.

The surprising longevity of bed bugs means we’re no longer certain of the identity of these bloodthirsty buggers’ first host. But the study’s findings could still offer clues on how bed bugs once made the jump to humans, and if that transition will have an encore act in the future.

“Bed bugs didn’t evolve on humans,” says study author Michael Siva-Jothy, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. “We just happen to be their current host at the moment—which means they’re very good at what they do.”

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Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species—Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus—which pierce human skin and drink blood with their sucking mouthparts. Luckily, neither is thought to transmit disease. Image Credit: smuay, iStock

The scourge of bed bugs on humankind is believed to stretch back to the very dawn of our species. But only three species—Cimex lectulariusCimex hemipterus, and, less commonly, Leptocimex boueti—routinely spend their nights supping on human blood. At least 100 other types of bed bugs exist worldwide, feeding mostly on bats and, to a lesser extent, birds, and researchers still don’t have a good understanding of these insects’ origins, and how species have split and diversified over time.

To generate a more complete bed bug catalog, an international team of scientists led by Klaus Reinhardt, a molecular and evolutionary biologist at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, set out to amass insects from around the world.

A handful of specimens weren’t too hard to come by, arriving via the generosity of natural history museums, or scientific colleagues who had seen the team’s requests for help on Twitter. Collecting the lion’s share of the data, however, required some pretty gnarly field trips that featured amateur cliff scaling, treks through knee-deep guano, and hikes into remote mountaintop caves—all in search of nondescript insects just millimeters long.

In all, sample collection alone took the study’s 15 authors the better part of 15 years. But the result was an unprecedented collection of pristine bed bug DNA, representing 34 species hailing from 62 localities around the globe.

“It’s really difficult to collect these specimens,” says Christiane Weirauch, a systematic entomologist at the University of California, Riverside who was not involved in the study. “It’s just so cool that this team has pulled this together.”

By comparing DNA sequences across species, Reinhardt, Siva-Jothy, and their colleagues were able to trace the evolutionary relationships between the bed bugs they’d collected. The researchers then combined their data with evidence from known insect fossils to pinpoint when bed bug lineages had split in the past. And when the bed bug family tree was finally mapped, the team was met with a set of findings that flew in the face of almost everything they’d expected.

Because bats remain the most common host of bed bugs (technically, bat bugs) today, Siva-Jothy says, most researchers have assumed that the first bed bugs to scuttle the Earth also gorged on the blood of these winged mammals. Cozied up to cave-dwelling bats, bed bugs would’ve then had an easy time making the hop to our human ancestors seeking shelter some 2 million years ago, and evolved alongside the genus Homo ever since.

Neither of these theories panned out.

The researchers’ analysis now places the origin of bedbugs around 115 million years ago, during the Cretaceous—a whopping 30 to 50 million years before bats are believed to have come onto the scene. It’s not yet clear what species first drew the bed bug straw, but a good candidate might be a small, social, cave-dwelling mammal, Reinhardt says.

Others, however, aren’t ready to completely rule out bats, or at least an early bat-like ancestor. “The fossil records for [both bed bugs and mammals] are patchy…that makes it hard to make definitive statements,” says Jessica Ware, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study. “It’s possible bats are older, and we’ve just underestimated.”

Some 70 more bed bug species have yet to be analyzed in this way, and the family tree could still change with the addition of new data, Ware says. “That being said, this is the first and maybe most comprehensive analysis people have done for [this group of insects].”

Regardless of where, and on whom, bed bugs got their start, it appears these insects were hardy enough to weather a mass extinction—and have remained alarmingly adaptable ever since. The researchers’ findings suggest that, throughout their evolutionary history, several bed bug species went from bothering bats to terrorizing birds and vice versa. Along the way, at least three species dipped their spindly legs into human stock. Surprisingly, all three species appear to have evolved independently, with each making a separate jump to human hosts.

In other words, we humans didn’t actually do much to shape the evolution of one of our most iconic pests, who were perfectly content binging on the blood of bats and birds. It just so happened that, when an unlucky member of the genus Homo stumbled onto their path, certain bed bugs were flexible enough to expand their palates.

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Bats were once thought to be the first host of bed bugs. But a newly mapped family tree shows that bed bugs predate bats by 30 to 50 million years. Image Credit: Mark Chappell, University of California, Riverside

There’s even a chance another bed bug species might one day develop a taste for human blood, Reinhardt says (in fact, it might already be happening). Based on the historical data, these transitions happen roughly every half a million years.

But the more pressing concern might be the enemies we already know, Siva-Jothy says. “With human populations expanding, and our reliance on animals, and the way cities grow and communicate…there will be more opportunities for the species we’ve already got to become more widespread.”

Given the stubbornness of bed bug infestations, that’s not great news. It’s enough to make us wonder if bed bugs have the apocalyptic armor to outlive us all.

We might not have made our bed bugs. But we still have to lie with them.

Here’s how California could be missing pesticides’ cancer risk – #sayNOtoPESTICIDES!

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The local community is concerned about high levels of pesticides used near Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, Calif., which is surrounded by strawberry fields on all four sides.  Photo:Sam Hodgson

February 17, 2016 | by Andrew Donohue | Reveal

The local community is concerned about high levels of pesticides used near Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, Calif., which is surrounded by strawberry fields on all four sides.

California’s pesticide police could be missing a serious health concern for residents and farmworkers by failing to monitor what happens when pesticides get mixed together.

As a new report from UCLA highlighted today, California studies only how each individual pesticide affects human health. Often, however, workers and residents are exposed to a number of pesticides at the same time.

That can happen when pesticides get mixed together before they’re applied to fields or when different pesticides are used in the same field on the same day. A growing body of science is showing that the chemical cocktails could create greater health risks than each pesticide does on its own.

In particular, the report shows how three fumigants – a type of gaseous pesticide central to the strawberry industry and used near schools and homes – might combine to increase the risk of cancer for bystanders. Essentially, once in the human body together, the chemicals can team up to attack and mutate DNA in a way they wouldn’t on their own.

“The regulatory system that is supposed to protect people from harmful levels of pesticide exposure has been slow to deal with interactive effects when setting exposure limits for pesticides,” the report says.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s mission is to protect humans and the environment from the dangers of pesticides. The report’s authors, who come from UCLA’s law and public health schools, said the department must begin studying the combined effects. And they point out that low-income and minority residents are at the greatest risk.

“DPR is required to assess this risk and protect public health, but isn’t doing so,” the authors wrote.

The department already is under fire for how it has managed fumigants, which can spread easily through the air. A Reveal investigation found that department leaders allowed growers and Dow AgroSciences to use heavy amounts of one fumigant despite strenuous objections of scientists because of its potential to cause cancer.

When Ventura County residents subsequently raised concern about the pesticide’s use in strawberry fields near Rio Mesa High School, department Director Brian Leahy responded with a series of exaggerations and contradictions.

The department has curtailed the pesticide’s use and begun drafting rules that would limit pesticide use around schools and require residents to be notified of fumigant use near their homes. However, the state continues to keep open the loophole it created at Dow’s request.

Last week, the department’s second-in-charge, Chris Reardon, left without explanation after nearly 13 years with the agency. An appointee of the governor, Reardon maintained close ties with the agricultural industry, copies of his calendars show.

The UCLA report focused on the fields around Rio Mesa High School to make its case. The school is boxed in on all four sides by conventional strawberry fields. Although pesticides aren’t applied during school hours, the gases can linger in the air for weeks after they’re applied without teachers or students knowing.

Combined, the health risk could be much greater than those of the individual pesticides.

“In fact, modeling shows that over the course of about one week people who live and work in the area around Rio Mesa High School in Ventura County were exposed to large doses of multiple fumigants,” the report says. “This level of exposure raises concerns about possible interactive effects.”

The report points out that 35 percent of all fumigants were applied on the same field on the same day as another fumigant, and 26 percent were applied as part of a pesticide mix.

The authors recommend the following changes in California’s pesticide regulation:

  • Pesticides sold as part of a mixture should be tested before being approved for use.
  • When pesticides are mixed at the field or applied near each other, regulators should require testing or create strict restrictions if there’s a reasonable chance of human harm.
  • The combined effects of the pesticides should be considered in the initial health research done by the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the rules it creates around the pesticides’ use.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Misled About BedBugs? Ask Real Estate

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Michael Kolomatsky/The New York Times

The New York Times | by Ronda Kaysen | November 21, 2014

Q. My wife and I recently signed a one-year lease for an apartment. It included a rider stating that all apartments in our building had been bedbug-free for at least one year before our move-in date. After we moved in, we learned from the superintendent that an apartment in our building had been infested by bedbugs and treated a few weeks before our move-in date. Needless to say, we were disturbed by this news — and want to know our rights. As we understand it, the landlord is responsible for the costs of fumigating. Who is responsible for other expenses, like replacing mattresses and furniture? Since we were misled (and have the signed rider as proof), can we demand remuneration for any repairs or replacement costs we might be forced to incur?

Astoria, Queens

A. There are two plausible explanations for what happened here, neither of them good. Either your landlord was woefully ill-informed about the state of the building or he lied. In either case, I would be concerned about how effectively the infested apartment was treated for bedbugs, which are notoriously hardy creatures.

“If this is a landlord who is willing to lie on a disclosure form,” said David Hershey-Webb, a lawyer who represents tenants, “then the tenants may not have a lot of faith in the landlord to adequately address the bedbug problem.”

The New York City administrative code requires landlords to disclose whether or not an apartment has been treated for bedbugs in the last year. The measure does not include any penalties for violating the law. However, if you do get bedbugs and incur damage to your personal property, you could take the landlord to small claims court and use that erroneous disclosure form as evidence of negligence. Under normal circumstances, a landlord is required to treat the infestation and a tenant is responsible for cleaning personal belongings, Mr. Hershey-Webb said.

But before we wander too far down the road of future infestations, determine your risk. If the affected apartment is adjacent to yours or in the same line, you have good reason for concern. But if several floors and walls separate you from that apartment, your risk is considerably lower.

“If it’s an immediately adjacent unit or if it’s in that line, it could have an effect,” said Gil Bloom, the president of Standard Pest Management and an entomologist. “Outside of that, it normally does not make a difference.”

Once you have assessed your risk, decide whether you want to stay in the apartment. Ultimately, you might want to consider packing up your belongings and moving out before the bugs move in. You “have the option to try to rescind the lease on the basis of fraud,” Mr. Hershey-Webb said. Consult with a lawyer to see if you can get out of the lease. Otherwise, you may find yourself battling a bedbug infestation with a dishonest landlord.

BedBugs reported in some of NYC’s swankiest hotels. They were always there; and it’s getting worse. More important to follow as BedBugs transmit deadly Chagas disease.

February 8, 2016 | by Leonard Greene | New York Daily News
It’s not just the fleabags and flophouses.

Bedbugs have been reported in some of the city’s swankiest hotels with a list that includes the Waldorf Astoria the Millennium Hilton and the New York Marriott Marquis.

According to the Bedbug Registry, a nationwide database of bedbug reports and complaints, bedbug sightings in New York hotels have jumped more than 44 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.
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The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.

The data focused on establishments that are members of the Hotel Association of New York City.

Of the 272 association members, 65 percent, or 176 members, have had a guest file at least one complaint about bedbugs at the property.

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Michelle Bennett/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

Taxi cabs outside Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Eighteen hotels had a combined 363 complaints, representing 42 percent of all bedbug complaints.

“I stayed in room 2306 for one night,” a Millennium Hilton guest wrote in a complaint to the hotel in 2014. “I found blood on my sheets and a live bug on my bed. I ended up with 60 plus bites.”

At the Times Square Doubletree guest said a stay there last year left hundreds of bite marks on the face, neck arms and hands.

“Extreme case of bed bug attacked on my entire upper body,” the guest wrote.” Went home to Florida a day early and ended up in my local emergency room.”

Research Entomologist Jeffrey White shows off some bedbugs at a informational bedbug conference at 201 Mulberry Street in Manhattan Wednesday.

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Last month, a California couple posted a YouTube video about their $400-a-night Central Park hotel room nightmare. The couple found dozens of bedbugs beneath their mattress at the Astor on the Park Hotel.

Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the hotel association, said hotels in New York are addressing the issue.

“Bedbugs are a global issue that extend beyond hotels,” Linden said.

”Every member of the Hotel Association of NYC that we are aware of has an active anti-bedbug program in place. If a problem arises, it is dealt with immediately and effectively.”

Scientists who recently studied the bloodsucking creatures in the city’s subway system discovered a genetic diversity among bedbugs depending upon the neighborhood where they were found.

They said the discovery could lead to better insecticides.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Watch this BedBug go from flat to FAT

FYI – A 2014 Penn State Study confirms that Chagas CAN be transmitted by bed bugs and that bed bugs carry 40 other pathogens and MRSA.  ~A. Steiner~

February 8, 2016 | Christopher Terrell Nield | The Conversation
The bedbug problem is getting worse. Infestation horror stories have popped up in most major cities and a pest control team was even asked recently to exterminate bedbugs on an offshore oil rig.

We tend to associate bedbugs with dirty living conditions, but this is a myth – they don’t actually choose dirty homes over clean ones.  Unusually for many blood-sucking insects, bed bugs haven’t (yet) been implicated in spreading disease to the humans they bite, so that’s one small thing in their favour, though they are suspected of carrying organisms that cause leprosy, oriental sore and the bacterial brucellosis, and may be able to transmit Chagas disease.

After feasting on human blood the same bedbug goes from flat (00:25) to fat (3:25).

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES

Messing with BedBugs’ Genes Could Carry Other Risks?

Bed Bugs Will Outlive All Of Us Unless We Screw With Their Genes

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photo:  Bluejake/Sara Bibi/Gothamist

Bed bugs, like cockroaches and new seasons of The Bachelor, seem impossible to eradicate from the face of the Earth, no matter how many exterminators our landlords call to spray that one time and then never, ever again. But Science says there’s some small hope for the extinction of a moviegoer’s biggest fear—screwing with their genome.

Scientists have managed to map the genome of the common bed bug, revealing some fun things about the little suckers. For instance, bed bugs are actually able to break down toxins, like the ones an exterminator might use, to render them harmless, allowing them to survive even when you try to whack them with bug killer. They’ve also been MUTATING, producing genes that make them resistant to certain insecticides and making it all the more difficult to eradicate an infestation. Another fun fact is that bugs’ genes vary from location to location—a Brooklyn bed bug will have a different genetic sequence from a Queens bed bug, though both are equally disgusting.

Bed bugs also inbreed, and their sex is quite violent. This violent sex has been well-documented, and for those of you who have not yet seen Isabella Rossellini’s bed bug porno, you’re welcome, and sorry:

The takeaway here is that bed bugs have been able to hold us hostage for a long time, but scientists might be able to murder them, provided they make a few genetic tweaks. First, though, let’s kill all the mosquitoes.

[A. Steiner:  So…..Messing with Genes Could Carry Other Risks – YES!]

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Genome of BedBug shows close relationships to Kissing Bug, one of several vectors for deadly Chagas disease, and the body louse. Both have tight associations with humans.

February 2, 2016 | News from Weill Cornell Medical College

Researchers Sequence First Bedbug Genome.  Scientists have assembled the first complete genome of one of humanity’s oldest and least-loved companions: the bedbug. The new work, led by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine, and published Feb. 2 in Nature Communications, could help combat pesticide resistance in the unwelcome parasite. The data also provides a rich genetic resource for mapping bedbug activity in human hosts and in cities, including subways.

male and female bedbugs – both fed and unfed – comparison with apple seeds

“Bedbugs are one of New York City’s most iconic living fossils, along with cockroaches, meaning that their outward appearance has hardly changed throughout their long lineage,” said one of the paper’s corresponding authors Dr. George Amato, director of the museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. “But despite their static look, we know that they continue to evolve, mostly in ways that make it harder for humans to dissociate with them. This work gives us the genetic basis to explore the bedbug’s basic biology and its adaptation to dense human environments.”

The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) has been coupled with humans for thousands of years. This species is found in temperate regions and prefers to feed on human blood. In recent decades, the prevalence of heated homes and global air travel has accelerated infestations in urban areas, where bedbugs have constant access to blood meals and opportunities to migrate to new hosts. A resurgence in bedbug infestations since the late 1990s is largely associated with the evolution of the insects’ resistance to known pesticides, many of which are not suitable for indoor application.

“Bedbugs all but vanished from human lives in the 1940s because of the widespread use of DDT, but unfortunately, overuse contributed to resistance issues quite soon after that in bedbugs and other insect pests,” said Louis Sorkin, an author on the paper and a senior scientific assistant in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “Today, a very high percentage of bedbugs have genetic mutations that make them resistant to the insecticides that were commonly used to battle these urban pests. This makes the control of bedbugs extremely labor intensive.”

The researchers extracted DNA and RNA from preserved and living collections, including samples from a population that was first collected in 1973 and has been maintained by museum staff members since then. RNA was sampled from males and females representing each of the bug’s six life stages, before and after blood meals, in order to paint a full picture of the bedbug genome.

When compared with 20 other arthropod genomes, the genome of the common bedbug shows close relationships to the kissing bug (Rhodnius prolixus), one of several vectors for Chagas disease, and the body louse (Pediculus humanus), which both have tight associations with humans.

Click here to read complete article.

 

SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Bed Bugs show resistance to pesticides: What to do now? Build a wall!

Why chemicals used to fight bed bugs aren’t working any longer was revealed in a new study that compared today’s bed bugs with those that have been isolated in a lab for 30 years.

February 1, 2016 | by Lonnie Shekhtman  | The Christian Science Monitor

The chemicals used to fight bed bug infestations are no longer working, say scientists from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and New Mexico State University. The tiny pests have developed a resistance to the most commonly used type of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, or neonics, which is part of the reason there has been a resurgence of them in the last couple of decades.

“While we all want a powerful tool to fight bed bug infestations, what we are using as a chemical intervention is not working as effectively it was designed and, in turn, people are spending a lot of money on products that aren’t working,” Troy Anderson, an assistant professor of entomology in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said in an announcement last week.

In an experiment, researchers compared bed bugs from homes in Cincinnati and Michigan that had been previously exposed to neonics with those that a researcher has kept isolated in a lab for 30 years, dating back to a time before the insecticides were used commercially.

In results published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Entomology, Dr. Anderson and Alvaro Romero, an assistant professor of entomology at New Mexico State University, reported that the bed bugs that had been isolated in a lab for 30 years died when treated with a small amount of neonics. Those collected from homes in Cincinnati and Michigan showed much higher resistance to the chemical treatment.

The team also tested bedbugs from New Jersey that were already resistant to pyrethroids, another class of widely used insecticides often mixed with neonics, but had been isolated from neonics since 2008. Those bugs were more susceptible to the insecticides than the ones from Cincinnati and Michigan, but not as much as the isolated bedbugs.

“Companies need to be vigilant for hints of declining performance of products that contain neonicotinoids,” Dr. Romero said in a study announcement.

“For example, bed bugs persisting on previously treated surfaces might be an indication of resistance. In these cases, laboratory confirmation of resistance is advised, and if resistance is detected, products with different modes of action need to be considered, along with the use of non-chemical methods,” he said.

Bed bugs are particularly burdensome in apartment buildings, where they can spread to many units. They are also more problematic for low-income, elderly, and disabled people who can’t spot the tiny red bug and often don’t have the means to get rid of them, say researchers from Virginia Tech.

Bed bugs thrive in beds, couches, and around electrical outlets and cause hundreds of bites a night.

“When well-off people get bed bugs, it’s an inconvenience. But when low-income families get them, there aren’t many options,” said Molly Stedfast, who worked with bed bugs as a graduate entomology student at Virginia Tech in 2013.

“Those who can’t afford the treatments,” she says, often end up living with bed bugs for a long time.

Virginia Tech’s pest lab recommends a nontoxic, non-neonic treatment that can be applied to the inside perimeter of an apartment. The treatment is diatomaceous earth, a dust made from fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. Researchers said this dust has been used to control pests for more than a century. It clings to the bed bugs as they walk through it, absorbs moisture, and kills them via dehydration.

“We treat the perimeter of the apartment to isolate infestations in one unit and not allow them to spread. It is a lot less expensive to treat one apartment than every unit in the building,” said Dini Miller, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Announcement: Bedbug Genome Assembled

Bed_Bugs_CommentarayScientists have assembled the first complete genome of bedbugs, which existed in some form even before humans were around to invent beds.

February 2, 2016 | by Elizabeth Kolbert | The New Yorker

In the great contest that is life, the common bedbug, Cimex lectularius, qualifies as a winner. This is true not just in the Donald Trumpian sense of being extremely difficult to get rid of but in the long-term evolutionary sense of surviving multiple geological epochs. A creature that looked very much like a bedbug was scuttling around during the time of the dinosaurs; a sort of proto-bedbug has been found in amber that’s almost a hundred million years old. It’s not clear what that bug fed on, but it’s believed that long before modern humans—and therefore beds—existed, Cimex lectularius sucked on bats’ blood. When humans took to living in caves, bedbugs descended from the bats and began feeding on people. (There are still bedbugs that prefer bats, and scientists have proposed that the lineage that prefers humans is in the process of becoming a separate species.)

Today, researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine announced that they had assembled the complete genome of Cimex lectularius. The same team is working on the cockroach genome; both projects are part of an effort to better understand so-called “living fossils.” A paper on the bedbug genome is appearing today in the journal Nature Communications.

“Bedbugs are one of New York City’s most iconic living fossils,” George Amato, one of the paper’s authors and the director of the museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, noted. The bedbug genome turns out to consist of almost seven hundred million base pairs. This is significantly larger than the fruit-fly genome (a hundred and twenty million base pairs), but not nearly as large as the locust genome (six billion base pairs). In addition to sequencing the bedbug’s genome, the researchers also looked at gene expression over the bug’s life cycle, which spans five instar stages. From this, they concluded that the “first blood meal of the bedbug is the most dynamic period of the bedbug’s transcriptional activity.”

Bedbugs are so-called true bugs. Members of this group also include cicadas, aphids, and leafhoppers, and all share a common arrangement of mouthparts. As anyone who has suffered an infestation knows, bedbugs use their mouthparts, or proboscises, to seek out blood vessels. Then they inject anticoagulants into their victims, to prevent themselves from, in effect, choking. The researchers found that bedbugs possess several classes of genes that code for anticoagulant proteins, including for proteins usually associated with snake venom. This doesn’t mean that bedbugs are any more closely related to snakes than other insects, just that they’ve come up with some of the same strategies.

“What we’re really finding is a structural motif—something about the sequence of amino acids that is probably involved in preventing blood from clotting in the same way a snake venom protein is, but doesn’t share an evolutionary history,” Mark Siddall, another author of the paper and a curator at the Museum of Natural History, explained.

The ancient Greeks were already complaining about bedbugs in the fifth century B.C.; references to bedbugs appear in Aristophanes and then in Aristotle. The bugs seem to have travelled with humans along ancient trade routes; by the seventh century A.D., they were in China, and by the eleventh century in Germany. From Europe, bedbugs migrated to North America and Australia with the colonists.

Bedbugs suffered a population crash in the mid-twentieth century, with the introduction of pesticides like D.D.T. But they have since evolved resistance to many of the chemicals used against them, and their numbers have roared—or, if you prefer, snuck—back up. A recent study by researchers at Virginia Tech and New Mexico State University found that bedbugs have already evolved resistance to neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that has been in use for only twenty years or so. (The study shows that it takes something like five hundred times the amount of neonicotinoids to kill bedbugs from populations that have been exposed to the chemicals as it takes to kill bugs from populations that have never been exposed.) The researchers who put together the bedbug genome identified several genes that may be involved in pesticide resistance; this information could potentially be used to create more effective bug killers.

“It turns a light on for people to begin in a logical way to explore these areas that we’ve identified,” Amato said.

By combining the information from the genome with information from DNA swabs taken from New York City subway stations, the researchers were also able to map relationships among the city’s bedbug populations. This effort suggests that even bedbugs have a hard time getting across Manhattan.

“We found more north-south connectivity for the bedbugs than we found east-west,” Siddall observed. “And that’s reflecting what we already know to be true.”

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Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

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Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

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Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety

Information and Perspectives on Bed Bug Prevention, Protection and Safety