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Bed Bug Biology and Behavior
Department of Entomology
Bed bugs have a severe impact on the quality of life. This impact extends from rural communities to cities. Management of bed bug infestations is not simple, and is exacerbated by the limited availability and efficacy of insecticides. An understanding of behavior and biology of bed bugs will contribute to our potential to control bed bugs. By understanding how heat and CO2 serve as stimuli to attract bugs, we may be able to develop new methods of bed bug detection. The microorganisms that may be involved in digestion of blood are a potential new target for bed bug control. An understanding of sublethal effects of insecticides will allow for their prudent use, including information on where insecticides should be applied, which stages are affected and whether avoidance of insecticides will scatter bed bugs to adjacent rooms.
2010 Project Description
Infestations of the bed bug are increasing around the world at an alarming rate and have become a major public health concern. Because resistance to pyrethroid insecticides is widespread in the U.S. there is a great demand for novel approaches for pest control, and a renewed effort to learn characteristics of bed bug behavior.
Bed bugs must avoid detection when finding hosts and returning to hidden harborages. Their stealthy habits include foraging when hosts are asleep. Characteristics of locomotor activity rhythm of bed bugs with different feeding history were studied.
In the absence of host stimuli, adults and nymphs were much more active in the dark than in the light. The onset of activity in the scotophase commenced soon after lights-off. The free-running period for all stages was longer in continuous darkness (DD) than in continuous light (LL). The lengthening of the free-running period in DD is an exception for the circadian rule that predicts the opposite in nocturnal animals.
Activity in adults and nymphs was entrained to reverse L:D regimes within four cycles. Short-term starved adults moved more frequently than recently fed adults. While bed bugs can survive for a year or more without a blood meal, we observed a reduction in activity in insects held for five-weeks without food. We suggest that bed bugs make a transition to host-stimulus dependent searching when host presence is not predictable. Such a strategy would enable bed bugs to maximize reproduction when resources are abundant and save energy when resources are scarce.
The presence of bed bug populations resistant to pyrethroids demands the development of new control tactics, including the use of insecticides with new modes of action. Insecticides that disrupt oxidative phosphorylation in insects' mitochondria can be an option. We measured with laboratory assays the toxicity of chlorfenapyr to susceptible strains and two strains highly resistant to pyrethroids. We also compared the effectiveness of two chlorfenapyr-based formulations and evaluated the behavioral responses of bed bugs to dry residues of aerosol sprays. Chlorfenapyr was effective against all bed bug strains, killing them at a similar rate, regardless of their susceptibility status to pyrethroids. Dry residues aged for four months were as toxic as fresh dry residues. The aerosol formulation had contact activity and caused a faster mortality than a water-based formulation. Bed bugs did not avoid resting on surfaces treated with aerosol.
Chlorfenapyr is an option for controlling pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs. While it does not cause quick knockdown, long residual activity and no avoidance behavior of bed bugs to dry residues appears to make this insecticide suitable for bed bug control. A faster insecticidal effect is obtained with the aerosol formulation, suggesting greater bioavailablity of the toxicant.
Chlorfenapyr has become an increasingly important option in bed bug control programs.
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Potter, M.F. Haynes, K.F., Connelly, K, Deutsch, M., Hardebeck, E., Partin, D. Harrison, R. 2010. The sensitivity spectrum: human reactions to bed bug bites. Pest Control Tech. 38(2): 70-74, 100.
Potter, M. F., Haynes, K.F., Goodman, M., Stamper, S., and Sams, S. 2010. Bed bugs: a blast from the past. Pest Management Professional 78(3): 46-52.
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Kajita Y, Obrycki J, Sloggett J, Haynes K.F. 2010 Intraspecific alkaloid variation in ladybird eggs and its effects on con- and hetero-specific intraguild predators. Oecologia 163: 313-322.
Swartzberg, E.G., Haynes K.F. Johnson D. W., and Brown, G. C. 2010. Wax structures of the ladybird beetle Scymnus louisianae attenuate aggression from aphid-tending ants. Environmental Entomology. 39: 1309-1314.
Romero, A. Potter, M.F. and Haynes, K.F. 2010. Circadian rhythm of spontaneous locomotor activity in the bed bug, Cimex lectularius L. Journal of Insect Physiology. 56:1516-1522
Romero, A. Potter, M.F. and Haynes, K.F. 2010. Evaluation of chlorfenapyr for control of the bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., Pest Management Science. 66: 1243-1248.