The Loh Down On Science

Big Bedbug Families

Birds do it. Bees do it. How do bedbugs do it? Here's a hint: It rhymes with infest!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, investigating genes in bedbugs. And not, thankfully, bedbugs in jeans.

Bedbugs are back. They went away for a few decades, but they're now the scourge of many a hotel and home.

But what's itchy for some is science for entomologists. Insect experts from North Carolina State University recently kidnapped bedbugs from infested buildings across the country and looked at the little bloodsuckers' genes.

What they found might make you squirm. Bedbugs taken from neighboring infested apartments had a lot of genetic similarity. I mean a. lot. As in, from the same family?

A very, ahem, close family.

The researchers suggest that some of the buildings they investigated had become infested because one female had children who had children with each other.

Such incestuous breeding might help explain why bedbugs came back. The kinds that didn't die from pesticides kept their family lines going ... and going... and going.

Sleep well.



The Loh Down on Science, online, at lohdown.org. Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.

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