Adaptations of Blood Feeders

Bed Bug

Underside of Immature Bed Bug

Blood is a source is a protein-rich nutrient for many insects. Small blood feeding insects such as fleas and lice are flattened and resistant to being dislodged by the host. Larger blood feeders such as bed bugs, mosquitoes and biting adult flies are more readily dislodged or even killed by an irritated host. Bed bugs and mosquitoes have a strategy of feeding quickly, then leaving their host to digest the blood meal. A mosquito can alight on a host, drink a full blood meal and escape in a couple of minutes. A bed bug spends about 5 minutes on a host crawling to a feeding site, drinking a blood meal and returning to its harborage. The bed bug will spend several days hiding in a harborage out of site. Feeding on the blood of a host is risky and these insects minimize the risk by minimizing the time on the host.

Intermittent feeding requires the ability to store large amounts of food internally. The crop of these insects can expand to a large size to accommodate the blood. The abdominal segments of these insects are contracted when the crop is empty but extend to expand the length and width of the abdominal cavity accommodating the greater volume of internal fluid.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired 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 Bed Bugs, behavior, by jjneal. Bookmark the permalink.

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