We’ve all heard the expression “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” but it is most likely that you don’t go to bed imagining actual, tiny bugs crawling around in your bed. Most of us think of bed bugs as a pest of the past. When we think of bed bugs, we imagine filthy, rundown places. We don’t imagine that bed bugs could possibly be in our clean sheets or in our homes. According to recent research, not only are bed bugs a much larger problem than we imagine, but there might just be a major solution. Purdue University researchers participated in a multi-institute project that studied the genome of the common bedbug that just might be the answer to ridding ourselves of these pests so that we may get back to having a great night’s sleep.
Some might ask, “what can a bedbug do, other than being a disgusting thought? They can’t really cause sleeping trouble, can they?” Actually, they can do that and a lot more! Bed bugs have plagued humans for at least the last three thousand years. They are nocturnal, meaning they come out at night. This is when they feed on blood. The blood they drink gives them the nutrients and water they need to live, and since humans sleep at night, we become their source of life. On top of this, bed bugs have developed an immunity to most major insecticides. “Bed bugs were the ignored pests for many decades, but their sudden prevalence has sparked interest in developing better bedbug control measures and knowing more about their biology,” said Gondhalekar, assistant professor of entomology.
They are hard to kill and easy to pick up. They can survive months without a meal and can steal a ride on clothes, luggage, and even in one’s hair. People who have been bitten by bed bugs often develop allergies, infections, and sores. Those in infested homes often develop psychological issues as well. Victims of an infestation often suffer from stress, paranoia, loss of sleep, and can even develop insomnia!
Luckily, the genome discovered by those who participated in the study showed that bed bugs have a significantly lower number of chemosensory genes compared with many other insects. This is most likely because bed bugs target humans as their hosts. Knowing this will allow those in pesticide companies to create an insecticide that could target bed bugs specifically and more aggressively. “Fortunately, we’ve now got the genome early in the game,” Scharf said. “Having this knowledge now might enable us to prevent bed bugs from becoming pests at the level of German cockroaches or disease-transmitting mosquitoes.”
The research was published in Nature Communications.
Amberley Stephens has been a freelance writer since 2008. She graduated from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, in May of 2013, with a B.A. in English Language and Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. She has since continued her work as a freelance writer,