Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Traumatic insemination


Behavioral bioassays were conducted to determine whether bed bug adults and nymphs prefer specific colored harborages. Two-choice and seven-choice behavioral color assays indicate that red (28.5%) and black (23.4%) harborages are optimal harborage choices for bed bugs. Yellow and green harborages appear to repel bed bugs. Harborage color preferences change according to gender, nutritional status, aggregation, and life stage. Female bed bugs prefer harborages with shorter wavelengths (lilac-14.5% and violet-11.5%) compared to males, whereas males prefer harborages with longer wavelengths (red-37.5% and black-32%) compared with females. The preference for orange and violet harborages is stronger when bed bugs are fed as opposed to when they are starved. Lone bed bugs (30%) prefer to be in black harborages while red harborages appear to be the optimum harborage color for bed bugs in more natural mixed aggregations (35.5%). Bed bug nymphs preferred different colored harborages at each stage of development, which is indicative of their developing eye structures and pigments. First instars showed no significant preference for any colored harborage soon after hatching. However, by the fifth instar, 27.5% of nymphs significantly preferred red and black harborages (which was a similar preference to adult bed bugs). The proportion of oviposited eggs was significantly greater under blue, red, and black harborages compared to other colored harborages tested. The use of visual cues such as specific colors offers great potential for improving bed bug monitoring tools by increasing trap captures.

Concepts: Color, Preference, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex


Intergenomic evolutionary conflicts increase biological diversity. In sexual conflict, female defence against males is generally assumed to be resistance, which, however, often leads to trait exaggeration but not diversification. Here, we address whether tolerance, a female defence mechanism known from interspecific conflicts, exists in sexual conflict. We examined the traumatic insemination of female bed bugs via cuticle penetration by males, a textbook example of sexual conflict. Confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed large proportions of the soft and elastic protein resilin in the cuticle of the spermalege, the female defence organ. Reduced tissue damage and haemolymph loss were identified as adaptive female benefits from resilin. These did not arise from resistance because microindentation showed that the penetration force necessary to breach the cuticle was significantly lower at the resilin-rich spermalege than at other cuticle sites. Furthermore, a male survival analysis indicated that the spermalege did not impose antagonistic selection on males. Our findings suggest that the specific spermalege material composition evolved to tolerate the traumatic cuticle penetration. They demonstrate the importance of tolerance in sexual conflict and genitalia evolution, extend fundamental coevolution and speciation models and contribute to explaining the evolution of complexity. We propose that tolerance can drive trait diversity.

Concepts: Reproduction, Evolution, Species, Ecology, Evolutionary biology, Sex, Mating, Traumatic insemination


IN RECENT YEARS, BED BUG (HEMIPTERA: Cimicidae) problems have increased dramatically in many parts of the world, leading to a renewed interest in their chemical ecology. Most studies of bed bug semiochemicals have been based on the collection of volatiles over a period of time followed by chemical analysis. Here we present for the first time, a combination of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry and video analysis for real-time measurement of semiochemicals emitted by isolated groups of bed bugs during specific behavioural activities. The most distinct peaks in the proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry recordings were always observed close to the termination of mating attempts, corresponding to the defensive emissions that bed bugs have been suspected to exploit for prevention of unwanted copulations. The main components of these emissions were (E)-2-hexenal and (E)-2-octenal recorded in ratios between 1∶3 and 3∶1. In the current study, the quantity varied over 1000 fold for both of the compounds with up to 40 µg total release in a single emission. Males also emit defensive compounds due to homosexual copulation attempts by other males, and no significant differences were observed in the ratio or the amount of the two components released from males or females. In summary, this study has demonstrated that combining proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry with video analysis can provide detailed information about semiochemicals emitted during specific behavioural activities.

Concepts: Time, Chemistry, Sex, Ratio, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera


The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) has resurged as one of the most troublesome household pests affecting people across the globe. Bed bug infestations have increased in recent years primarily due to the evolution of insecticide resistance and the insect’s ability to hitchhike with travelers. vATPases are one of the most evolutionarily conserved holoenzymes in eukaryotes, which are mainly involved in proton transport across the plasma membranes and intracellular organelles. RNA interference (RNAi) has been developed as a promising tool for insect control. In this study, we used RNAi as an approach to knock down subunits A and E of the vATPase gene of bed bugs. Delivery of 0.2 µg/insect of dsRNA specific to vATPase-A and vATPase-E into female bed bugs dramatically impaired the laying and viability of eggs over time. Injection of the vATPase-E dsRNA decreased survival of the bed bugs over 30 d. Our results also showed that the knockdown of mRNA is highly effective and persistent up to 30 d post injection. This research demonstrated that silencing of the two vATPase subunits A and E offers a potential strategy to suppress bed bug populations.

Concepts: RNA, Hemiptera, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Masked hunter


The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) is a nuisance household pest causing significant medical and economic impacts. RNA interference (RNAi) of genes that are involved in vital physiological processes can serve as potential RNAi targets for insect control. Brahma is an ATPase subunit of a chromatin-remodeling complex involved in transcription of several genes for cellular processes, most importantly the homeotic genes. In this study, we used a microinjection technique to deliver double stranded RNA into female bed bugs. Delivery of 0.05 and 0.5 µg/insect of brahma dsRNA directly into hemocele resulted substantial reduction in oviposition. Eggs laid by bed bugs receiving both doses of brahma dsRNA exhibited significantly lower hatching percentage as compared to controls. In addition, brahma RNAi in female bed bugs caused significant mortality. Our results disclosed the potential of brahma RNAi to suppress bed bug population through injection of specific dsRNA, suggesting a critical function of this gene in bed bugs' reproduction and survival. Based on our data, brahma can be a promising RNAi target for suppression of bed bug population.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, RNA, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius


Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius L.) are now endemic in most major cities, but information regarding their basic biology is still largely based on research done over four decades ago. We investigated the effects of starvation, mating, sperm storage, and female and male age on egg production and hatch. Egg production cycles varied with the number of bloodmeals that females received. Once-mated females fed every 5 d had constant egg production for ∼75 d followed by a monotonic decline to near zero. Percentage egg hatch was high and constant, but declined after ∼30 d to near zero. To determine whether the age of the female, male, or sperm affected these patterns, we mated newly eclosed females to 60-d-old virgin males, 60-d-old mated males, or newly eclosed males. Females produced the most eggs when mated to young males, followed by old mated males, and then old virgin males; percentage hatch followed a similar pattern, suggesting that sperm stored within males for long was deficient. To examine effects of sperm stored within females, we mated newly eclosed females, starved them for 30 or 60 d, then fed them every 5 d. The 60-d starved group produced fewer eggs than the 30-d starved group, and both produced fewer eggs than young females mated to old or young males. Longer periods of sperm storage within females caused lower corresponding percentage hatch. These findings indicate egg production and hatch are governed by complex interactions among female and male age, frequency of feeding and mating, and sperm condition.

Concepts: Reproduction, Sex, Gamete, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius


Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) provide a unique opportunity to understand speciation and host-associated divergence in parasites. Recently, two sympatric but genetically distinct lineages of C. lectularius were identified: one associated with humans and one associated with bats. We investigated two mechanisms that could maintain genetic differentiation in the field: reproductive compatibility (via mating crosses) and aggregation fidelity (via two-choice sheltering assays). Effects were assessed at the intra-lineage level (within human-associated bed bugs), inter-lineage level (between human- and bat-associated bed bugs), and inter-species level (between C. lectularius and Cimex pipistrelli [bat bug]). Contrary to previous reports, bed bugs were found to be reproductively compatible at both the intra- and inter-lineage levels, but not at the inter-species level (although three hybrids were produced, one of which developed into an adult). Lineage- and species-specific aggregation fidelity was only detected in 8% (4 out of 48) of the aggregation fidelity assays run. These results indicate that under laboratory conditions, host-associated lineages of bed bugs are reproductively compatible, and aggregation pheromones are not capable of preventing gene flow between lineages.

Concepts: Parasites, Evolution, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


Sublethal exposure to an insecticide may alter insect feeding, mating, oviposition, fecundity, development, and many other life history parameters. Such effects may have population-level consequences that are not apparent in traditional dose-mortality evaluations. Earlier, we found that a routinely used combination insecticide that includes a pyrethroid and a neonicotinoid (Temprid® SC) had deleterious effects on multiple bed bug (Cimex lectularius, L.) behaviors. Here, we demonstrate that sublethal exposure impacts physiology and reproduction as well. We report that sublethal exposure to Temprid SC has variable aberrant effects on bed bugs depending on the strain, including: a reduction in male mating success and delayed oviposition by females. However, after sublethal exposure, egg hatch rate consistently declined in every strain tested, anywhere from 34%-73%. Conversely, impact on fifth instar eclosion time was not significant. While the strains that we tested varied in their respective magnitude of sublethal effects, taken together, these effects could reduce bed bug population growth. These changes in bed bug behavior and fecundity could lead to improved efficacy of Temprid SC in the field, but recovery of impacted bugs must be considered in future studies. Sublethal effects should not be overlooked when evaluating insecticide efficacy, as it is likely that other products may also have indirect effects on population dynamics that could either aid or inhibit successful management of pest populations.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


As one of the most notorious ectoparasites, bed bugs rely heavily on human or animal blood sources for survival, mating and reproduction. Chemoreception, mediated by the odorant receptors on the membrane of olfactory sensory neurons, plays a vital role in their host seeking and risk aversion processes. We investigated the responses of odorant receptors to a large spectrum of semiochemicals, including human odorants and plant-released volatiles and found that strong responses were sparse; aldehydes/ketones were the most efficient stimuli, while carboxylic acids and aliphatics/aromatics were comparatively less effective in eliciting responses from bed bug odorant receptors. In bed bugs, both the odorant identity and concentrations play important roles in determining the strength of these responses. The odor space constructed based on the responses from all the odorant receptors tested revealed that odorants within the same chemical group are widely dispersed while odorants from different groups are intermingled, suggesting the complexity of odorant encoding in the bed bug odorant receptors. This study provides a comprehensive picture of the olfactory coding mechanisms of bed bugs that will ultimately contribute to the design and development of novel olfactory-based strategies to reduce both the biting nuisance and disease transmission from bed bugs.

Concepts: Odor, Hemiptera, Aroma compound, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter


The decay time of the fluorescence of excited molecules, called fluorescence lifetime, can provide information about the cuticle composition additionally to widely used spectral characteristics. We compared autofluorescence lifetimes of different cuticle regions in the copulatory organ of females of the bedbug, Cimex lectularius. After two-photon excitation at 720 nm, regions recently characterised as being rich in resilin showed a longer bimodal distribution of the mean autofluorescence lifetime τm (tau-m) at 0.4 ns and 1.0-1.5 ns, while resilin-poor sites exhibited a unimodal pattern with a peak around 0.8 ns. The mean lifetime, and particularly its second component, can be useful to distinguish resilin-rich from resilin-poor parts of the cuticle. The few existing literature data suggest that chitin is unlikely responsible for the main autofluorescent component observed in the resilin-poor areas in our study and that melanin requires further scrutiny. Autofluorescence lifetime measurements can help to characterise properties of the arthropod cuticle, especially when coupled with multiphoton excitation to allow for deeper tissue penetration.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Arthropod, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Cimex lectularius, Cimex