Inbreeding isn’t generally considered a good trait in any offspring, but bedbugs and a few other insects are pretty good at it.
Coby Schal at North Carolina State University (NCSU) studied the genetic diversity of bedbugs in US buildings. Interestingly, the diversity is so low that sometimes an entire buildings infestation can stem from one pregnant female.
Normally inbreeding leads to genetic defects hidden in the recessive genes of the parents. Bedbugs, along with cockroaches are the exception to the rule. Schal believes that some inbred populations may already be on their 70th generation. If that’s true, you can bet that many are far further along.
That puts a damper on using inbreeding as a weakness to kill them, but we already have some good common sense ways to avoid infestations anyway, like keeping your home clean and clutter-free. So it turns out, the vacuum cleaner may still be the best defense.
The fact that they share this impressive, if not creepy, trait with cockroaches tells us all we need to know about bed bugs in general… they are survivors, and they are here to stay!
Bed bugs are obligatory hematophagous (bloodsucking) insects. Most species feed on humans only when other prey are unavailable. Bed bugs are attracted to their hosts primarily by carbon dioxide, secondarily by warmth, and also by certain chemicals. A bed bug pierces the skin of its host with what is called a stylet fascicle. This is a unit composed of the maxillae and mandibles which have been modified into elongate shapes from a basic, ancestral style. The right and left maxillary stylets are connected at their midline and a section at the centerline forms a large food canal and a smaller salivary canal. The entire maxillary and mandibular bundle penetrates the skin. The tips of the right and left maxillary stylets are not the same: the right is hook-like and curved, the left straight. The right and left mandibular stylets extend along the outer sides of their respective maxillary stylets and do not reach anywhere near the tip of the fused maxillary stylets. The stylets are retained in a groove in the labium and during feeding they are freed from the groove as the jointed labium is bent or folded out of the way: its tip never enters the wound. The mandibular stylet tips have small teeth and through alternately moving these stylets back and forth, the insect cuts a path through tissue for the maxillary bundle to reach an appropriate sized blood vessel. Feeding by sucking for about three to five minutes or more, the bug then withdraws the stylet bundle from the feeding position and retracts it back into the labial groove, folds the entire unit back under the head, and returns to its hiding place. It takes between five to ten minutes for a bed bug to become completely engorged with blood.”
Bed bugs haven’t been the problem lately that they have been in the recent past.