How Do Male Bed Bugs Mate

Scent of Fear Keeps Male Bed Bugs From Mating With Each Other

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Scent of Fear Keeps Male Bed Bugs From Mating With Each Other

Male bed bugs get confused in bed. Now a scientist has found a bug chemical signal that translates, “Whoa, buddy. I’m a guy too.”

Male bed bugs grasp and try to mate with any other member of theirCimex lectulariusspecies that has had a full meal of blood recently, says chemical ecologist Camilla Ryne of Lund University in Sweden. Single-minded males don’t seem inclined, or even able, to distinguish other males from females at first.

At first contact, sex recognition for these insects works largely by trial and error, Ryne says. What corrects those errors, she has found, is a blend of chemicals that earlier work has also described as the bed bug alarm pheromone.

“This is the first time to my knowledge that anyone has shown that alarm pheromones are used for sexual recognition,” Ryne says.

Females can release the substance when disturbed but typically don’t when grasped by a male, Ryne says. But males do exude the scent when grabbed by another male. After a whiff of the stuff, misguided suitors back off, Ryne reports online October 24 inAnimal Behaviour.

Considering that bed bugs are making a comeback as a pest in the industrialized world, “knowing how they mate is important,” says entomologist Joshua Benoit of Ohio State University in Columbus. He too has been studying the alarm pheromone, and he agrees that the bugs use it in several ways.

Pheromones may have achieved their fame in popular culture as dizzying lures for the opposite sex, but biologists have discovered plenty of other kinds of pheromones. Compounds can fuel aggression among male mice or urge baby rabbits to search for a nipple.

Bed bugs release the pheromone blend of the small, volatile molecules (E)-2-octenal and (E)-2-hexenal when disturbed, Ryne says. A mating attempt might indeed be disturbing, since males deliver their sperm by what’s called traumatic insemination. They ignore the opening to the female reproductive tract and inject sperm with a needlelike appendage directly through the outer covering of a mate’s body. In the abdominal area most commonly pierced, female bed bugs grow a mass of the kinds of cells associated with immune defense. Males, though, have no extra protection there.

To test the idea that the alarm pheromone helps mistakenly targeted males free themselves, Ryne painted nail polish over the glands that produce the substance, thus blocking its release. Males that couldn’t signal chemically ended up in longer embraces than males dabbed elsewhere with nail polish.

For a different test, Ryne collected the substance by washing disturbed males with a solvent. When she applied wafted the extract over mating pairs of males and females, the males backed off. The finding showed that even in the presence of a suitable mate, the signal disturbed the males, she says.

Ryne herself can smell the pheromone, she says. It’s a bit like almond, but not particularly pleasant. “Older people say that you used to be able to tell whose house had bed bugs because it had a peculiar smell,” she says.

*Images: 1) A male and femal bed bud mate. 2) A bed bug feeding on blood from a person. *Rickard Ignell/Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

How Do Insects Have Sex?

ruriirawan / Getty Images

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Insect sex is, for the most part, similar to other animal sex. For most insects, mating requires direct contact between a male and a female.

Generally speaking, much like humans, the male of the insect species uses his sex organ to deposit sperm into the female’s genital tract spurring on internal fertilization.

But there are some standout cases where males and females make no contact at all.

Wingless Insects

The primitive insect order (Apterygota) relies on an indirect method of sperm transfer to its mate. There is no insect-to-insect contact. The male deposits a sperm packet, called a spermatophore, on the ground. For fertilization to occur, the female must pick up the spermatophore.

But there is a bit more to the male’s mating ritual than just dropping some sperm and running. For example, some male springtails go to great lengths to encourage a female to pick up his sperm.

He may nudge her toward his spermatophore, offer her a dance or even impede her path away from his sperm offering. Silverfish males attach their spermatophores to threads and sometimes bind their female partners to force them to accept their sperm package.

Winged Insects

Most of the world’s insects (Pterygota) mate directly with the male and female genitalia coming together, but first the couple must attract a mate and agree to mate.

Many insects use extensive courtship rituals to choose their sexual partners. Some flying insects can even mate midflight. To do so, the winged insects have a unique sex organ for the task.

After a successful courtship, copulation occurs when the male inserts part of his penis, also known as an aedeagus, into the female’s reproductive tract. In many cases, this requires two steps.

First, the male extends its penis from his abdomen. Then, he extends his penis further with an inner, elongated tube called the endophallus. This organ acts as a telescoping penis. This extension feature enables the male to deposit his sperm deep within the female’s reproductive tract.

Satisfying Sex

One-third of insect species studied by scientists show that the males do not seem to neglect their partners either. There seems to be a decent effort on the male’s part to make sure the female is pleased with the sexual encounter.

According to Penny Gullan and Peter Cranston, ​entomologists from the University of California-Davis, in their textbookThe Insects: An Outline of Entomology:

"The male indulges in copulatory courtship behavior that appears to stimulate the female during mating. The male may stroke, tap, or bite the body or legs of the female, wave antennae, produce sounds, or thrust or vibrate parts of his genitalia."

Another example, milkweed bugs, also known as Oncopeltus fasciatuas, may copulate for several hours with the female leading and the male walking backward.

Everlasting Sperm

Depending on the species, a female insect can receive sperm in a special pouch or chamber, or a spermatheca, a storage sac for sperm.

In some insects, such as honey bees, the sperm remains viable for the remainder of her life in the spermatheca. Special cells within the spermatheca nourish the sperm, keeping it healthy and active until needed.

When the bee’s egg is ready for fertilization, sperm is pushed out of the spermatheca. The sperm then meets and fertilizes the egg.

What You Should Know About Female Bed Bugs And Bed Bug Eggs

Dini M. Miller, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Virginia Tech, recently provided an update on bed bug biology and control at Chicago’s ‘A Meeting of the Minds V’.

You should know …

Mating Biology

  • Bed bugs can not mate until they have fed 5 times and shed their skins or exoskeleton 5 times – this takes approximately 37 days depending upon access to a host for feeding.
  • Once fed, the adult male bed bug is very interested in mating.
  • Bed bugs mate by traumatic insemination – the male stabs through the female’s abdominal wall to deposit sperm which migrate to her ovaries and fertilize her eggs.

Bed Bug Egg Biology

Adult bed bug with grains of rice and flanked on each side by a bed bug egg

  • A mated female bed bug can lay 5 – 20 bed bug eggs over 10 days – providing she has recently fed.
  • A meandering female bed bug may lay her eggs anywhere – singly or in groups.
  • She will eventually run out of sperm and have to mate again to continue egg production and her egg production will be dependent upon regular feedings.
  • Over the course of her lifetime, providing she feeds regularly, the average female bed bug will lay 131 bed bug eggs.
  • Of those 131 bed bug eggs, approximately 97 percent will be viable and successfully hatch.
  • Providing the bed bug egg incubation conditions are ideal – 70°F/21°C or above – 60 percent will hatch on day 6, and less than 90 percent by day 9. Decreasing the temperature to 50°F/10° C will add several days to the bed bug egg hatch timeline.
  • The ratio of male and female eggs produced is about equal – 1:1.
  • Within 16 days – under ideal conditions – a bed bug population could double. Ideal conditions are between 70°F/21°C and 90°F/32°C with regular feedings.

1 Bed Bug May Become An Infestation

It is apparent from these population numbers that a single breeding female can be the origin of an infestation, as Dini Miller states:

"In practical terms, this means that a single mated female brought into a home can cause an infestation without having a male present, as long as she has access to regular blood meals. The female will eventually run out of sperm, and will have to mate again to fertilizer her eggs. However, she can easily mate with her own offspring after they become adults to continue the cycle.”

Early Bed Bug Detection

When faced with numbers like these, it is apparent early bed bug detection is crucial to nip an infestation before the population gains ground. Learning about bed bug biology and behaviour is your first line of defence. Establishing a pro-active early bed bug warning system is the second step. Passive bed bug monitors are an excellent second line of defense. TheBB Alert Passive Monitor, is simple to use, costs 8¢/day over a year and provides an early warning system to safeguard your home and your family.

Bed Bug Reproduction

By DoMyOwn staff

How do bed bugs reproduce?

Male and Female bed bugs mate by what is called traumatic insemination. The traumatic insemination takes place by basically stabbing the female’s abdomen with a specialized hardened reproductive organ. The fertilization can take place at any location on the abdomen and the male’s gametes will travel to her ovaries or reproductive gametes. Once fertilization occurs the female contains viable eggs for 5-7 weeks. After three or so days of feeding, the female begins to lay eggs. As the female lays eggs, she continues to feed. She can produce an average of 3-8 eggs a week. The eggs hatch and immediately feed.

Female bed bugs are capable of laying as many as twelve eggs each day after being fertilized and having a proper blood meal. They are deposited in small cracks and crevices along bed frames, baseboards, and carpet linings. The female lays the eggs with an adhesive layer to assure that the eggs will stay in place. The baby bed bugs will hatch from the eggs in around six to seventeen days. The young emerge and immediately begin to feed or search for food. Nymphs and adults are able to survive long periods of time without food. Bed bugs usually live for a year to a year and a half. Three or more generations can occur each year.

To stop bed bug reproduction, use an IGR (insect growth regulator). For bed bugs, we specifically recommend using Gentrol IGR.

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How Bed Bugs Reproduce

In order to prevent the spread of bed bugs, it’s important to understand how they reproduce. Bedbugs reproduce via hypodermic insemination, also known as traumatic insemination. Male bugs use their genitalia to pierce the females anywhere on the abdomen, releasing sperm into the body. The sperm migrate through her abdominal fluiduntil they arrive at the ovaries, resulting in fertilization of the eggs.

The mating process is traumatic for female bed bugs, and they are frequently injured in the process. The wound can result in infection and leakage of blood, which reduces the lifespan of the female. For this reason, female bugs will avoid excessive mating where possible. After mating, they prefer to move to a location where they can remain undisturbed with a guaranteed food supply. In a safe environment, a female bed bug will typically lay between one to seven eggs each day, following each blood meal.

Bed bugs generally live for 12 to 18 months. During her lifetime, a female bed bug will lay up to 250 eggs. The milky-white eggs are roughly one millimeter long, and visible to the naked eye.The eggs are deposited in crevices and cracks on bed frames, baseboards, furniture and carpets. The female uses an adhesive layer to ensure the eggs remain in place.

Because mating results in scarring, females that have mated many times within a short period of time will produce fewer eggs. Females that have time to recover from the mating process will produce more eggs. This phenomenon helps increase the proliferation of bed bugs, because pregnant females will travel to new locations to avoid male bugs.

Eggs hatch within 1-2 weeks. The nymphs that emerge can feed on blood immediately, but are unable to reproduce until they have fully matured. Theyundergo five molting stages before reaching adulthood. During each stage they must feed at least once. The time taken to mature depends on the temperature – from three weeks in warm weather to four months in cold weather.

A female bed bug may mate with any of her adult offspring, and will lay eggs continuously assuming she has access to a blood meal. Thismeans a single pregnant female can easilycreate an infestation of five thousand bugs within six months.

A 2010 study discovered that bed bug nymphs release a pheromone that prevents males from attempting to mate with them. Scientists hope to eventually use this pheromone to disrupt bed bug reproduction and reduce infestations.

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