If one of these moves into your neighbourhood you’re doomed

bed bug invasionGood night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite…

This is something that is a lot easier said than done. Bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, are taking over beds around the globe. One factor contributing to their growing presence is that traditional insecticides, no longer work against them.

But the real reason they’re winning the bed warfare, has a lot to do with the fact that they’re playing with an unfair genetic advantage.

Bed bugs moving in

Bed bugs don’t actually transmit disease, like some of their blood sucking counterparts, but a nip from a bed bug, does not leave the victim unscathed. The bite site typically turns into an on fire raised patch of burning hot flesh, which itches like crazy.

A victim is likely to think poorly of any bed that bites them, which poses a big problem for folks who rent beds for a living i.e. hotels, letting agents and realtors.

It is estimated that the city of New York spends $ 10 to $ 40 million each year, trying to stop bed bug bites. That’s a lof of moolla being spent on such a tiny problem.

The apartment take over begins with one

Researchers from North Carolina State University hoping to find the Achilles heel of these nuisance bugs, tracked the take over of three multi-story apartment buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey.

The researchers focus was not on the numbers, but on the genetics of the building residents. The findings left a chill – it seems an infestation of bed bugs, can quite literally begin with one. The researchers discovered the bed bugs residing in each building, were pretty much all the same family.

A single female bed bug, who has been mated, can walk through the front door of an apartment building and quite literally …………….. take over the building. Leaving every “bed” with a bug or two over a period of time.

NOTE : She may not literally walk in the building, she is more likely to arrive seated in someone’s favourite chair or other piece of furniture.

Bed bug genes not obeying the rules

Mother nature generally frowns on inbreeding and strives to continually mix and match genes, by introducing new genes into the system, because babies of brothers and sisters, end up being weak and pathetic.

The trouble with inbreeding, is mistakes i.e. mutations, are amplified.

A quick lesson in genetics….

  • Animals are dihybrid which means they have two copies of every gene. An organism, receives one copy of the gene from it’s “mom” and the other from it’s “dad”. If one is a dud version, often times the animal can still get by, because it has one good copy of the gene.
  • But in generation 2 when the parents are brother and sister, the “mom” and the “dad” share the same genes, so there is not going to be too much mixing and matching. The odds of the baby getting two copies of the bad gene, sky rockets. Two copies of the bad gene, invariably causes big trouble.

In the animal world – big trouble, typically means no more of those animals. But bed bugs seem to be able to roll with the punches and keep breeding, scientists at this stage don’t know how bed bugs manage to break all the rules, but they do, making them a force to be reckoned with.

This phenomenon is very unusual – the only other creature known to be capable of defying Mother Nature’s inbreeding rule, are cockroaches – need I say more !

Bed bugs are destined to rule

Bed bugs have been bugging humans since time began, even the Egyptian Pharaohs had to contend with a bed bug or too.

Up until now, we’ve been keeping them in check, with the help of a variety of insecticides, but somewhere along the way, they acquired the ability to survive in the presence of these toxins. Scientists are frantically looking at new pesticides and things, to take back control and give humans the upper hand but…….

Expect to hear more about these ancient human room mates, they’re genetically programmed to rule the world.

And if your neighbour acquires a second hand couch, be afraid, very afraid – it only takes one bed bug to take over the neighbourhood.

PS. If you’re dealing with second hand furniture, one way to “detect” a hiding bed bug, is to have the furniture experience a thorough once over sniff, by a specially trained sniffer dog, this is how the pest control companies track down rouge bed bugs.

Inbreeding in Bed Bugs One Key to Massive Increases in Infestations - press release from American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

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