Bed bug harbourages and moisture retention strategies

In a previous video entitled “how long bed bugs live- some discrepancies” I noted that bed bugs do not live very long in my teflon pan arena compared to Usinger’s chart in Monograph of Cimicidae. Later I noted that the large number of bugs I had collected in a tobacco tin from a massive infestation lived longer than the bugs in my arena. I did several experiments with the tobacco tin bugs and when the arena bugs died I replenished the arena with live bugs from the tobacco tin. The tobacco tin bugs died sooner than should have been expected but they lived longer than the arena bugs.

It is also commonly known that bed bugs live communally in harbourages despite the fact that the females prefer to avoid males after they have been fertilized. The females have a vested interest in avoiding the proximity of the males and yet they remain in communal harbourage.

I theorize that the humidity level was higher and air flow (air flow accelerates moisture loss) lower in the tobacco tin due to its sealed nature which allowed the tobacco tin bugs to live longer than the bugs in an open arena. Therefore bed bugs living in a tightly confined communal harbourage would have even higher control of air flow and moisture loss would be less because each bug is actually touching another bug. This is the same idea as people huddling together to conserve warmth in a snow storm. The bugs are actually conserving moisture in the harbourage. It is this moisture conservation strategy that entices the female bed bug to live in communal harbourage despite the danger posed by the males.

To test this theory one would harvest an entire harbourage (part of the mattress together with the bugs) and put harbourage/bug collection into an isolated arena with no host cues. Put a similar number of bugs into an open arena with with no harbourage and measure how long each colony lived. I theorize the mattress colony would live longer. An excellent project for a grad student.

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