Bed Bug Starvation Diet

Bed Bug

Underside of Immature Bed Bug

Bed bugs and many other blood feeders only stay on their hosts long enough to feed, then retreat to a protective harborage to digest their food. After the blood meal is digested, the bed bug must once again locate a host. This arrangement works well for rapid growth and development if the host can always be found nearby at night. However, humans are mobile. We take vacations, travel and may be away from home for extended periods. During such periods, bed bugs starve.

Bed bugs and other blood feeding bugs are adapted to surviving long periods without food. During starvation, bed bug metabolism is reduced to a low level that conserves energy and resources.

Bed bugs do not drink. They get all their water from blood feeding and metabolism. In starvation times, bed bugs must also conserve water.  In insects, water can enter and leave cells through pore forming proteins called aquaporins. One way to conserve water is to change the expression pattern of these proteins such that more water is retained and less water is eliminated. These genes have been sequenced* and their identification can facilitate studies of mechanisms underlying the tolerance of extreme dehydration and starvation.

*Benoit & Colleagues. Unique features of a global human ectoparasite identified through sequencing of the bed bug genome. NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 7:10165 2 Feb 2016
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10165

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, Biomaterials, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bed Bug Starvation Diet

  1. Pingback: Bed Bug Starvation Diet – Entomo Planet

  2. Birds and Bees Hideout says:

    Great post. It is very informative. What I do not understand is how they can use gene sequencing in bed bugs to learn more about human genes. I think that bugs are too different from humans and their genes would not be reflective of those of humans. Perhaps this idea is a stretch? I may need to read the article you have cited!

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