Bed Bugs Are Evolving

One problem about insects, and bed bugs, is that their life spans and reproduction cycles are so short that evolutionary processes that would take thousands of years in other species can occur very quickly. Over a matter of years the entire population could change and have different strengths and weaknesses. Gene mutations are a normal concept in our world. Thats how species grow and evolve. Normally these mutations are harmless and have no effect on us, but if the mutation allows them to survive the use of pesticides, like having a slightly thicker skin for instance, then when the rest of the bed bugs are killed off by a treatment only the ones with the beneficial mutation remain. These bugs go on to reproduce, and the cycle continues until you have entire populations that are resistant.

For example, say bed bugs in Regina develop a mutation that makes it resistant to chemical A, we can simply change the chemical we use to get rid of them. Also lets say that bed bugs from Vancouver become resistant to chemical B. When a bed bug from Vancouver makes its way to Regina and reproducing with them, their offspring can develop resistances to both chemicals. We all know it’s easier than ever to travel around the world quickly, and bed bug populations become mixed. Thus making more and more bed bugs resistant to more chemicals.

The Body Length of a Bed Bug

Recently a joint effort between researchers produced a record of the bed bug genome (complete set of genetic material present in an organism). This is very useful for future investigations, not only into bed bug pesticide resistance but also into how they feed and grow. However many years research are needed in order to make this information useful. Making matters worse is the lack of funding available for research into bed bugs. Understanding the genome of a bed bug could help us understand which chemicals bed bugs are not resistant too.

Luckily, none of the research has shown any developing tolerance for heat. More than ever it’s looking like heat treatment should be the standard for bed bugs, as it is safer and more reliable.