Saturday, December 10, 2011

Inbreeding: Secret to Bed Bug Success

Bed bug infestation is a rising problem in cities along the east coast. New York city alone spends between ten million and 40 million per year on bed bugs. 95% of pest control agencies in the city reported bed bug infestations - making bed bugs the number one pest.

Researchers point to a number of reasons for the growth of bed bug populations in the last ten years - increased urbanization and international travel, high turnover rates in New York apartments, and use of used furniture and household items. But researchers believe the primary reason for their growth has been bed bugs' capability to withstand interbreeding.

In a study of New York apartments, there was very low genetic diversity in each building. Infestation can start from just one or two introductions of the insect. Being able to withstand inbreeding allows bed bugs to expand to other apartments within the building. The same study revealed that cockroaches can also survive inbreeding.

As bed bugs can survive inbreeding, only a very small number of bed bugs need to be resistant to an insecticide to render the insecticide ineffective. New research has been focused on using RNA interference to shut down the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down the insecticide and on using new methods to attract bed bugs to traps. Newly-identified compounds secreted by bed bugs mean that future traps can make use of a "cocktail" of compounds to attract the bugs.

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