Comedy, Art, Infotainment

It was only a matter of time before the bed bug explosion made its way into the dialogs of TV comics. Bed bugs in high places are good for a few snickers, but not so funny when the problem hits home. Comedian John Stewart featured bed bugs in a segment called “Bed Bug and Beyond” after recent reports of bed bugs in a Times Square (New York City) movie theater and infestations at clothing stores. Bed bugs were discussed just last week on Living With Insects Blog.

Delivering information in the context of comedy improves information retention, something advertisers have utilized for years with humorous ads. John Stewart also presents a video clip from the Isabella Rossellini “Green Porno” series on the Sundance Channel. Quoting from the Sundance Channel promotional, “The series features Rossellini as she acts out the reproductive habits of marine animals and insects, both scientifically accurate yet extremely entertaining.” Insects were engaging in unusual mating habits for hundreds of millions of years before humans warned, “That’s not natural”. There are enough “unusual” insect mating habits to run a series for decades. It is not surprising that the Rossellini series would explore bed bug mating habits.

Bed bugs engage in “traumatic insemination”, the basis for the Rossellini skit. Male bed bugs inseminate females by injecting sperm into the abdomen, rather than directly into the female reproductive organs as most insects do. The mechanism is more sophisticated than what the skit implies. The male bed bug reproductive organs are highly developed and resemble a tiny hypodermic needle. The male bed bug does not “stick” the female just anywhere in the abdomen. The female bed bug has a specific area of the abdomen that is adapted for mating. This is shown in this photo by Andrew Syred, published in PNAS (PNAS May 8, 2001 vol. 98 no. 10 5683-5687).

Panel A shows the male bed bug organ, and Panel C, the plate on the female. The mating system of bed bugs is more sophisticated than many of the crude descriptions would indicate. How and why this unusual mating system evolved is a mystery.

Music is another art form that is a good means of delivering information as we learn from the annoying jingles that on occasion, bounce around incessantly in our heads. The core information about bed bugs is captured in the Papa Joe Grappa tune, “Bed Bug Boogie”.

If comedy or art don’t capture the attention, perhaps fear can work better. Watch the Emmy Award Winning documentary, “Bed Bugs! Attack!” and you may never sleep in a hotel again without checking under the bed. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Art, Health, News, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Comedy, Art, Infotainment

  1. Niki says:

    I remember watching an ABC special on this is in March 2007 and it opened my eyes to the cleanliness of hotel rooms in terms of bed bugs:

    ABC Nightline JUST did a special on this in July as well:

  2. Jessy says:

    I actually saw that episode of the Daily Show. Before that episode I wasn’t aware of the bed bug problem. Using comedy really did capture my attention though and now i’ll never forget how bedbugs mate.

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