Bug Bites

Wheel Bug

Wheel Bug

Last night I was discussing bug bites with some colleagues and the ability to detect the bite. The consensus was that bites of the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, are painless and undetectable. The bites of Cimex hemipterus were slightly easier to detect but painless. A painless, difficult to detect bite is an advantage for a parasite that must drink blood meals from live hosts. Predaceous bugs such as the wheel bug do not normally bite humans and there is no advantage to a painless bite. Wheel bugs are predators of other insects. They bite insects and inject digestive enzymes that dissolve the host’s tissue. When wheel bugs bite people, the digestive enzymes injected under the skin dissolve tissue and trigger pain more intense than a bee sting that lasts 3 to 6 hours. The pain caused by the wheel bug bite gives a protective advantage by discouraging humans or predators from handling it.

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.
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