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Genetic Research Reveals Bedbug’s Unique Biology

Bedbugs have plagued humans for a long time—at least 3,000 years. DDT and other insecticides introduced in the wake of WWII knocked down their numbers to the point where these pests were largely ignored, forgotten for a couple decades. But now they are back, resistant to many of the tried-and-true methods people have relied on to rid their homes of pests.

You’ve read a number of articles here about bedbugs, their resurgence and modern strategic remediation. We at ATCO Pest Control pride ourselves on keeping up with the latest science to help us provide the best, most effective service we can for our customers. A recent report from Purdue University contained findings that may yield new weapons in our long battle with these resilient insects.

Recently, as part of a project to sequence the genome of Cimex lectularius (otherwise known as the bedbug), researchers at Purdue uncovered the genetic underpinnings of the unique biology of this pest, and in doing so, opened doorways to possible new treatment procedures.

We’ve reported in the past about the bedbug’s outer armor, a cuticle which not only protects the bug, but seems to neutralize pesticides that would kill other insects. The research revealed new information about how that occurs. Purdue entomologists Ameya Gondhalekar and Michael Scharf say the genome reveals,

“Bedbugs have. . . evolved new forms of sodium channels, gates in the nervous system that insecticides such as pyrethroids are designed to target and disrupt. The bugs might also detoxify ingested pesticides using the same robust antioxidant enzyme system they use to detoxify blood.”

Other insects, such as fruit flies and mosquitos have developed pesticide resistance, but the antioxidant genes seem to be unique in bedbugs. And because the genome also confirmed suspicions of substantial inbreeding among bedbugs, this pesticide resistance can be transmitted across generations. These findings underscore the value of alternative treatments like heat, employed by ATCO Pest Control, a leading IPM Certified company in the Bay Area.

Bedbugs feed exclusively on humans, and while that could be a nutritional drawback, the research also reveals that these insects “have inherited genes from symbiotic bacteria that provide essential nutrients lacking in blood.” So what they don’t get from their human host, they conveniently get from these acquired genes.

It seems our old adversary is gearing up for a longer, tougher fight. But the good news, researchers say, is that these discoveries about bedbug biology have come when they have, and provide opportunity for science to find ways to take advantage of them. “Fortunately, we’ve now got the genome early in the game,” Scharf said. “Having this knowledge now might enable us to prevent bedbugs from becoming pests at the level of German cockroaches or disease-transmitting mosquitoes.”

For years, ATCO Pest Control has employed heat treatment methods, combined with other strategies, to successfully eliminate bedbugs from apartments, offices and private homes. But staying ahead means keeping up with the latest news and advancements. It may be months or even years before new products and strategies emerge from these findings. But you can be sure we at ATCO Pest Control are paying attention, so that we’ll have all the best science and methodology at our disposal as soon as it is available.

ATCO Pest Control is Diamond Certified, ready to serve your pest management needs, whatever they may be.