Guessing at the Origin of Bed Bugs
In his book, Usinger suggests, and most experts today agree, that the bed bug got its start in caves somewhere along the Mediterranean seaboard tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years ago in what is now considered the Middle East. Bats likely lived in those caves, as they still do today, and they were host to parasitic bugs. Hypothetically, our ancestors or perhaps close kin such as the Neanderthals, with whom our early relatives interacted, sought shelter in these caves. When they did, some of the bat bugs took notice. Here was a new potential source of food. Temporary parasitic insects such as these are uniquely adapted to their host, especially when they live a restricted life with access only to a certain food source. Their mouthparts and legs, for example, are shaped to deal specifically with the skin and blood of whatever animal they feed on. These early bat-feeding bugs that were able to also bite our ancestors would have had characteristics allowing them to feed on an entirely new mammal with a strikingly different biology and lifestyle.
How Bed Bugs Thrive
While a bed bug’s life may seem secret to us, it carries on the same basic routines as any other animal: it eats, seeks shelter, and reproduces. For a bed bug, food is always blood. It hunts down each blood meal, as entomologists call it, every few days to a week and almost exclusively at night. From its hiding place in the bed-frame joint or the nightstand screw, it senses the carbon dioxide from your breath, the heat from your body, and, perhaps, some of the hundreds of other chemicals regularly emitted from your skin. It ventures out, scurrying across the floor, up the bed legs, and across the sheets. When the bed bug finds you, it grips your skin with clawed feet and unfolds its mouth – a long tube called a proboscis, also called a beak- to probe the flesh, seeking the best place to bite. Within the beak are the bug’s upper and lower mouth-parts-the maxillae and mandibles, respectively- each divided into right and left sides. When the bed bug is ready to penetrate the skin, the toothed mandibles lead the way, snipping through like scissors to make a path for the maxillae, which follow. Once inside, the mouthparts restlessly seek a blood vessel. Unlike some insects that guzzle pooled blood, the bed bug is a bloodsucker and takes its meal from blood circulating inside a living thing. Assisted by the difference between the high pressure of the blood vessel and the low pressure of its empty body, it fills like a water balloon attached to a spigot.
See Bed Bugs in Action
Why Bed Bugs Have Enjoyed Resurgence as of Late
To Brooke Borel, the author of the book “Infested“, the recent return of bedbugs is part of a growing trend in which the things we try to eradicate come back, oftentimes with a vengeance. The return of bed bugs, Borel notes, “isn’t a fluke. It is a return to normal.”
Borel believes that the resurgence of bed bugs is due to the evolutionary cycle. She believes they are still evolving, and that in the last few decades they have developed perhaps their worst trait of all: Resistance to bug poison.
The bed bugs of today have thicker, waxier exoskeletons that help shield them from the insecticides we try to poison them with and faster metabolisms to beef-up their natural chemical defenses.
Scientists still aren’t entirely sure why bedbugs have only now started to come back so strongly, Borel writes, but people are playing an important role in their recent return.
During World War II, scientists discovered the insecticide DDT. With this poison, they succeeded in wiping out tons of insects, including bedbugs, Borel writes. But recently, it stopped working.
“People used these pesticides for bed bugs in regions outside of the United States where the pest was still common, and also inadvertently dosed the bugs while treating for other insects. Bed bug insecticide resistance grew, for example, in malaria-ridden parts of Africa and Central America as the World Health Organization tried to curb mosquitoes by treating homes with DDT. All it would take for the bed bug to roar back would be a way for it to spread from those resistant hotspots to the rest of the world.”
International travel provided that window for the bedbug, Borel says. As the critters hitched a ride on everything from shoe soles to luggage, they spread across the globe. Today, they’re an international scourge.
“In a way, we created the modern bed bug: it evolved to live on us and to follow us,” Borel writes.
Bed Bugs in The News
Bed Bugs out of control in Montreal – http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/09/10/montreal-bed-bug-problem-out-of-control-exterminators-say_n_8119856.html
Bed bugs in Hospitals? – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/victoria-general-bedbugs-found-1.3325238
Hoarding Neighbor Causes Problems for Everyone – http://globalnews.ca/news/2303076/hoarding-neighbor-causes-bed-bug-nightmare-for-condo-residents/
Bed bugs in Schools – Tolsia, West Virginia – http://www.wsaz.com/home/headlines/Tolsia-High-School-Dismisses-Early-Due-to-Bed-Bugs-No-School-Friday.html
Bed Bugs in Workplaces, Regina Beach, SK – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/chicken-farm-worker-unprepared-for-seething-mass-of-bedbugs-1.3207955
Bed Bugs in Care Homes – Moose Jaw, SK – http://www.mjtimes.sk.ca/Opinion/Editorials/2015-08-14/article-4246319/Staffing-levels-need-to-be-addressed/1
Bed Bugs in Your Rental, Saskatchewan – Prairie-Dog Magazine Article on Bed Bugs: Landlord and Tenant Obligations
Bed Bugs in the News – Canada – Global News Articles and Videos