Date of Award

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Entomology

Advisor

Benson, Eric P

Committee Member

Zungoli, Patricia A

Committee Member

Bridges, William C

Committee Member

Schnabel, Guido

Abstract

After vanishing from the public eye for more than 50 years, bed bugs have resurged to become one of the most widely discussed and heavily researched insect pests in the westernized world. Our inability to prevent and successfully treat infestations has been the driving force behind this wave of research. I addressed gaps in our understanding of bed bugs by examining behavioral and life history characteristics, as well as insecticide application responses. I showed that natural-based products are generally ineffective against bed bugs, particularly when used as a residual treatment. I also found that bed bugs may be killed through horizontal insecticide transfer, and that the efficacy of such products may depend on product formulation and surface type. Further investigations revealed that several of the most commonly used industrial products are only moderately effective against bed bug eggs, and that some completely fail to suppress egg hatch rate. Some products appear to affect the orientation of bed bugs that are exposed to an insecticide-treated bug. Whether bed bugs are avoiding products or bed bug alarm pheromones released in response to products remains unknown. Investigations into bed bug behavior and life history produced several interesting findings. Although behavioral assays used to detect orientation of male bed bugs toward females based on airborne pheromones failed to product significant results at α=.05, results were significant at α=0.10. Trends in data were similar to what one would expect if males are capable of detecting airborne sex pheromones. Investigations into the effects of male nutritive status on female fecundity revealed that females are capable of producing the same number of offspring per blood meal independent of male feeding status. These results contradict studies from the 1930's, which found that male bed bugs do not attempt to mate if deprived of blood for 14 days. Finally, an assessment of the climbing ability of teneral and sclerotized bed bugs was conducted after noting that teneral bed bugs appeared more adept at climbing smooth surfaces. Behavior assays determined that teneral bed bugs climbed to greater heights more frequently than sclerotized bed bugs. Sclerotization resulted in the loss of this ability, presumably due to a loss of cuticular flexibility and an adhesive property conferred by molting fluid remaining on the teneral exoskeleton. These findings have implications for the design of bed bugs traps and barriers.

Included in

Entomology Commons

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