How Did Bed Bugs Originate

Origin of bed bugs revealed

A new analysis of bed bugs from around Europe reveals that they came to humans from bats

  • By Melissa Hogenboom

30 January 2015

"Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite," goes the familiar phrase. Unfortunately the statistics aren’t in your favour, because these apple-pip-sized bugs are everywhere.

Hardly a week goes by without a news story of yet another infestation, and yet they are relatively understudied, says Warren Booth of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, US.

Booth and his colleagues have used genetics to unveil the origin of bed bugs. They found that there are two lineages in Europe. They are so diverse, they have almost split into two species.

What’s more, their origin lies with bats.

The research, published in the journalMolecular Ecology, provides the first genetic evidence that bats were the ancestral host of the bed bugs that plague human residences today.

Bed bugs have been around for a long time, as has their association with humans. There are references to them in ancient Egyptian literature, and archaeologists have even discovered what seem to be fossilised bed bugs thought to be about 3,500 years old.

While you sleep at night they are feeding on your blood

A single pregnant female bed bug can infest an entire apartment building and the creatures are able to go through many rounds of inbreeding with no detrimental effects at all. All they need are human hosts to satisfy their thirst.

But in the 1950s they largely disappeared from our homes and hotels, due to an effective pesticide campaign. However, 15 years ago they came back with a vengeance.

Infestations are hard to treat, as 90% of common bed bugs now have a mutation that makes them resistant to the insecticides, known as pyrethroids, used to kill them.

Booth’s team sampled hundreds of bed bugs from human and bat dwellings from 13 countries around Europe.

An analysis of their DNA showed that there was no gene flow occurring between the human and bat bed bugs, even though some bats lived in churches or attics and could therefore have come into human contact.

We’re living in a time where they’re becoming much more common

The bat lineage probably dates back to when bats and humans once shared caves, says Booth. Even today it shows much more genetic diversity than the human form.

So different were the two that when previously bred together in the lab, the offspring were less fertile.

While their bites are not known to spread disease, they can cause itchy bumps and rashes not to mention the stigma of living or coming from an infected area.

"While you sleep at night they are feeding on your blood, you are a meal ticket for them," says Booth. "That can lead to enormous psychological issues."

There’s two types of people, says Booth: "the type that have had bed bugs and the people that will still get them. We’re living in a time where they’re becoming much more common."

Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Where do bedbugs come from?

Frantisek Dulik/Shutterstock

Bed bugs—just the thought of them makes you itchy, doesn’t it? These tiny critters feed on human blood and love to hide in and around the cracks and corners of our beds. And even though they don’t carry disease, they do cause a red, itchy rash.

When were the first bed bugs recorded?

These bugs have been around for thousands of years. Scientists have fossilized bugs that are more than 3,500 years old. Its believed they originated in the Middle East, in caves that were used by both humans and bats, and in the ancient world they were often used as a home remedy. The Egyptians used to drink them to cure snake bites!

Do they exist everywhere?

Bed bugs can be found all over the world, but perhaps surprisingly, the worst infestation problems tend to occur in developed countries where people use bed frames and soft bedding. Between 1930 and 1980, they were almost eliminated because chemicals like DDT were used to tackle infestations, but since DDT was banned, there’s been a huge increase. Many are now immune to today’s pest control chemicals. And increased levels of international travel are helping fuel the problem, as bedbugs can travel on clothing and in suitcases and bags.

Where are the worst outbreaks of bedbugs?

The U.S. cities with the most frequent recorded outbreaks are: New York City, Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland. The states with the worst record for infestations are: New York, California, Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and Maryland.

What’s the best way to get rid of them

Bed bugs are very difficult to eradicate, especially the eggs, so first it’s important to try and prevent an infestation in the first place. Follow the steps in this detailed guide. But once they’re established, they breed rapidly. An adult will lay around 250 eggs in their life cycle and they only take 6 to 10 days to hatch.

It is possible to treat your home yourself? Here’s our DIY guide to getting rid of bedbugs. If you’ve tried and still have a problem, professional help will be needed to eliminate them completely.

Where do bedbugs come from?

These creepy crawlies originated in the tropics and can be found just about everywhere now.

Bedbugs make me positively nauseous. I shudder just thinking about them. Bedbugs are my biggest fear about staying in hotels — so much so, in fact, that though I once used to enjoy sleeping in a luxurious hotel bed, I now avoid it whenever possible. For a while, I used to check this site before booking a hotel stay. Now I just don’t book a hotel stay at all. Just the very thought of those creepy-crawlies feasting on my blood while I sleep makes me never want to sleep anywhere but my own house again. But I will put my feelings aside for the sake of this article.

Bedbugs, tiny round copper-colored critters, feast on the blood of animals and humans (Interesting to note — they turn bright red while they are eating you). Once thought to have medicinal properties, bedbugs have been documented as early as the first century. Originating in tropical climates, bedbugs are excellent hitchhikers, stowing away in luggage, handbags or clothes, and can now be found almost everywhere in the world. Another reason that bedbugs are such good travelers? Though they prefer to go about a week between meals, they can actually go up to a year without eating.

They’re Back: A Bed Bug History

These cities are all plagued by a massive resurgence of Cimex lectularius, the speck-sized insect that loves to infiltrate the mattresses–and haunt the dreams–of its human hosts. In the last decade, bed bug calls to exterminators have nearly tripled, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. Experts have also noticed that the pests, which are usually associated with residential areas, are venturing into new terrain, cropping up in stores, movie theaters, offices and other public spaces.

This is not the first time America has seen an unwelcome surge in one of its peskiest populations. “Probably, most ships of the 17th century and before harbored bed bugs, and the colonists and their belongings brought them to America,” said Robert Snetsinger, a professor emeritus of entomology at Penn State University. But because the bed bug family comprises many species, he added, we don’t know whether it was Cimex lectularius or one of its many cousins that hitched a ride across the Atlantic. According to Lou Sorkin, an insect expert at the American Museum of Natural History, there is no record of a Native American word for bed bugs, yet another indication of their colonial origins.

On the other hand, ample evidence from other parts of the world suggests that humans have been battling the critters for millennia. In the 1990s, archaeologists found fossilized bed bugs while excavating a 3,550-year-old site in Egypt. They appear in several plays by the ancient Greek writer Aristophanes, who died in 386 B.C., and in the Jewish Talmud, among countless other literary sources. Though generally considered as much of a nuisance in ancient times as today, they were sometimes prized for their supposed medicinal properties: The Roman philosopher Pliny wrote in 77 A.D. that bed bugs could heal snakebites, ear infections and other ailments.

Ever the opportunists, bed bugs thrived in the New World, particularly after the advent of the railroad. In the days before cars and airplanes, many salesmen and other business travelers would stay in rundown hotels near train stations that essentially became “distribution centers for the spread of bed bugs to homes,” said Snetsinger.

As the bed bug population proliferated, so did methods for eradicating the bloodsucking creatures. Early techniques included smoking them out with peat fires, sterilizing furniture with boiling water and scattering plant ash. In the1920s, cyanide fumigation for bed bug management resulted in numerous human deaths, according to Snetsinger, author of “The Ratcatcher’s Child: The History of the Pest Control Industry.” And then, in the 1940s, along came DDT, a pesticide used to kill typhus and malaria carriers during World War II, which proved so effective against bed bugs that their numbers dwindled for almost 30 years.

That golden era for America’s mattresses came to a halt, however, when the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the chemical for its health and environmental effects. Other insecticides that had helped quell the bed bug epidemic, including chlordane and diazinon, were banned for similar reasons in the 1980s.

Since then, the bed bug population has made a worldwide comeback, nourished in part by a marked increase in international travel. But New Yorkers, Philadelphians and all those who obsessively inspect the seams of their pillowcases can take solace in one important fact: Unlike many of the pests that have run rampant throughout history—from the rats that unleashed the Black Plague on 14th-century Europe to the mosquitoes that continue to infect millions with malaria each year—bed bugs are more annoying than hazardous.

“There have been no studies that positively demonstrate that our common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, transmits disease to people,” said Sorkin. “There have been various disease organisms isolated from bed bugs, but these organisms are not viable and have not been transferred between hosts by the bed bug.”

Where Do Bed Bugs Really Come From and How to Get Rid of Them?

‘Where do bed bugs come from’ is one question many harassed people often wonder. The following article will cover everything you need to know about bed bugs and their journey into your house.

‘Where do bed bugs come from’ is one question many harassed people often wonder. The following article will cover everything you need to know about bed bugs and their journey into your house.

Bed bugs are tiny, wingless creatures that infest our homes, offices and take away our peace of mind. These blood sucking creatures are embarrassing pests that invade our homes and minds. They feast on our blood, when we are sleeping in our own beds. They tend to leave behind a trail of poop along our walls and furniture, that makes it look very embarrassing when you receive guests. Children tend to scratch and itch on the red, bumpy bed bug bites that may in some cases become infected. But where do they actually come from? They seem to be present everywhere, but how do they originate. Before we go onto the details of the journey of a bed bug into your house, let us start with their life cycle, that is, how do they come into being.

How do Bed Bugs Originate?

Bed bugs are members of the Cimicidae family and theCimex lectulariusis the common bug that gives us sleepless nights. These bugs have been a troublesome parasite to humans since a thousand years. It is said around 1940 they were almost eradicated from most of the developed countries. However, since the year 1995, they have again started to make a presence in the developed countries.

Bed bugs reproduce by traumatic insemination. Wondering what is a traumatic insemination? Well, it is mating procedure, where the male bed bug inseminates the female by piercing his hypodermic genitalia into the female beg bugs stomach (abdomen). The sperms are injected into the mesospermalege, that is a secondary genital structure. Injected sperms via haemolymph (blood) travel to the seminal conceptales, that is, sperm storage structure. Fertilization occurs at the ovaries. Eggs are released that then hatch into translucent nymphs. They feed and moult and reach maturity. These bugs communicate with the help of pheromones and kairomones. This helps them keep a track of the nesting location, reproduction as well as feeding.

Bed Bugs – Where do They Come from

The biggest question asked by many annoyed home owners with bed bug infestation is where do bed bugs come from? You tend to maintain the highest standards of hygiene and keep your home spick and span. Yet where do these bugs come from and begin sucking on your blood? Well, let me answer your question by explaining some possible factors related to the origin of bed bugs in your home.

There are many sources that lead to a bed bug infestation. There is not a single country in the world, that has not been traveled to by the bed bugs. The bed bugs are just 1/4″ in size and can easily sneak into baggage, luggage, clothes, trailers, planes, trains, buses, anything and everything without being noticed. These bed bugs hitchhike all over the world and make your home their heavenly abode. Let us see some of the possible sources of where do bed bugs come from.

If you have recently traveled or have received a guest in your home, chances are that the bed bugs had a piggyback ride in the travel luggage and baggage. They tend to hide in the seams of baggage and become the uninvited guests in your home. If you have school going or college going kids at home, chances are they have unwittingly bought home the bed bugs from their schools or college dorms. If you have just moved or received some packages, chances are these pesky creatures moved in with the boxes and packages received.

If you have bought some antique wooden furniture in the garage sale or purchased some furniture off the streets or during garage sale or even from a furniture dealer, it may be possible that the bed bugs came into your home absolutely free. It is possible that bed bugs come in with the furniture, as these bugs can even survive for a year without feeding. Thus, second-hand furniture may come along with a first-class problem, that is, bed bugs!

Your next door neighbor may unknowingly share their problem of bed bugs with you. If you have visiting neighbors, the bed bugs may hitch a ride in their clothes, bags, etc. and start living with you. It may even happen that the creepy crawlies, just stealthily crawl through the common pipes, vents, dead spaces between common walls from the next door apartment into yours. They may move in because they aren’t getting their daily bread and butter as your neighbor is away for a few days or may be they are forced to evacuate as the neighbor has treated his home with bed bug killing spray.

Bed bugs may also find laundry as a way to get inside your home. If you use laundry rooms to clean your dirty linen, it is possible that someone with a bed bug infestation has passed on the problem to you unknowingly. Many people launder their bed lines and clothes in case of an infestation and may unconsciously bring along some bed bugs in their laundry bags. Bed bugs can easily walk into your laundry bag kept nearby and travel along with you and your freshly laundered clothes into your home.

You thought a nice vacation with your partner in a quiet and peaceful locale with help you unwind your nerves. Well, instead you come back home and get entwined into a long and irritating bed bug infestation problem. Bed bugs are very common pest found in hotels. They are found in the pillows, under the mattresses, between the bed joints and the wardrobe. As they can survive a year without feeding, they are waiting patiently in the dark corners for their next victims.

Bed bugs are champion world travelers. They have no problems traveling by plane, train, ship, buses, cars, mopeds, cycles, etc. You never know, they may even hop into a rocket or submarine and make a cozy home there. Who knows, they may even have traveled to the far, far galaxy when E.T. visited earth! (I know, I am going crazy with my imaginary assumptions!). Anyway, these are just a few possible answers to your question where do bed bugs come from. Just to be sure you have encountered a bed bug in your home, let me explain in short what do bed bugs look like.

How do I Identify Bed Bugs

Most of you by now may have few questions popped into your heads, like how do I identify bed bugs? If you can’t differentiate between a mosquito bite and bed bug bites then you might find your answer in the article what do bed bugs bites look like.

Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The hatchlings are just about the size of a poppy-seed. The adults can measure about 1/4th of an inch. They are oval in shape and flat from top to bottom. Bed bugs are white after molting. They may even have a tan brown or orange color. After feeding you may see your blood in their body as a dark red mass. You may even come across empty shell-like skin of bed bugs. It’s just their cast skin. They generally feed in the night, when their prey is sleeping, when it will not disturb their banquet. While feeding the bed bugs inject a tiny amount of saliva into the skin and repeated bites make many people sensitized to the saliva, or it may result in a full-fledged allergic reaction in some. The bites are scratchy but resist the urge to scratch, as it will just intensify the irritation and pain. But, you can breathe out just a single sigh of relief, bed bugs are not known to be carriers of any infectious disease agents.

Apart from the bug itself, you can identify its presence in your surroundings by black marks on your walls and furniture. These black marks are the bed bug droppings of dried blood. You may even smell over-ripe raspberries in the room infested with bed bugs. One may even find blood stains on bed sheets in the morning or molts.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

So, now you know where do bed bugs come from, what do they look like and how to identify them. The next logical thought is getting rid of bed bugs. You need to look for these creatures under the tufts, seams and folds of mattresses. You may even observe small black spots of dried excrement in the corners of your walls, furniture, etc. It may also happen that you will find them hiding under the carpets, loosened wallpaper, cracks and crevices of the walls, etc. In fact, you should not be surprised, when you find them hiding in your television, computer, etc.

Now that you found the hiding places of these creepy crawlies, you need to follow some steps for getting rid of bed bugs. You should reduce clutter around the house and clean your carpets, blankets, stuffed toys with a vacuum cleaner. You can bag these household items in plastic bags with Nuvan Strips in case of a heavy infestation. You should remove drawers from desks and check properly for possible hidden bed bugs. Caulk and seal all holes and crevices in the pipes and wires in the walls and floors. Launder garments and bed linen in hot water, that is about 120° F. Vacuum the bed seams, foot boards, bed stands, head boards, carpets, etc. and then discard the vacuum bag once done. Spray insecticides that can kill bed bugs in every nook and corner of your house. You may even call in professional pest control services, if the infestation is out of control.

This was a little about bed bugs. These are real annoying bugs that suck your blood just like a vampire. It is very important to act fast and control the spread of bed bugs on the first sign of a bed bug in your house. I hope this article on where do bed bugs come from, proves to be of some help to you.

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