Air movement and bed bugs

In my line of work I often use a 10x hand held magnifier to identify newly hatched bed bugs. I don’t often bother magnifying the adult bugs as they are very easy to identify but on one particular occasion I was looking at an adult bed bug stuck to the edge of a glue board. The bug had the back legs stuck in the glue and the front legs were free to move. I noted during the magnification/inspection process that the front legs moved violently. I thought perhaps the bug was alive and trying to escape so I prodded it to check and it appeared to be dead. I went back to inspection and again I noted the legs flailing violently. I then discovered that there was a correlation between my breathing and the bug’s legs moving. My breath was causing the movement. Hmmmm. Borderline interesting.

On another occasion I was attempting to set up a heat experiment in my lab. I placed a painted light bulb (energized) toward one side of the experimental pan to see if I could establish a temperature differential from one side of the pan to the other. I placed wired temperature probes on either side of the experimental pan and stood back about 4 feet. I plugged the temperature probes into the meter in an alternating fashion. There was indeed a temperature differential but I noted the readings were constantly changing. I then determined that whenever I moved my arms the temperature would change. It appeared that the movement of my arm caused air currents which played havoc with my readings. Interesting.

It then occurred to me that one method bed bugs might use to locate a host is to follow minute disturbances in the air caused by the host. Perhaps the bugs can sense air movement and determine a source of the movement via their sensitive legs. Of course this is just a hypothesis which needs more work. We still don’t know much about how bed bugs find their host so it is good to pay attention to stuff like this.

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