News & Politics

Gene-Morphing Bed Bugs Now Virtually Indestructible


Have we properly freaked out about bedbugs yet this year? Not really? Let’s do it, now! The Wall Street Journal published a piece today that had even our most hardened staff members quivering in their cargo shorts. Here are the scariest bits:

–“bedbugs may have boosted their natural defenses by generating higher levels of enzymes that can cleanse them of poisons.” [THEY CAN PROVIDE THEIR OWN ANTIDOTE!]

–New York City bedbugs now are 250 times more resistant to the standard pesticide than bedbugs in Florida…”due to changes in a gene controlling the resilience of the nerve cells targeted by the insecticide.” [THEY CAN MORPH THEIR OWN GENES!]

–“the ability of bedbugs to survive once-lethal doses of insecticides is the newest evidence that efforts to eradicate pests that plague humankind may make some of them stronger.” [WE MAY BE MAKING THEM STRONGER!!!]

In fact, via the Journal,

Laboratory tests in the U.S., Europe and Africa show today’s bedbugs can survive pesticide levels a thousand times greater than the lethal dose of a decade or so ago. “There is a phenomenal level of resistance,” said bedbug entomologist Michael Siva-Jothy at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. “It has evolved very recently.”

AND: They give that resistance to their bedbug-children! “Any surviving insects pass on traits to their offspring and to succeeding generations.”

Itchy yet? Well, relax, say the scientists studying the bugs — hopefully “understanding” them will help us learn to control them. (Guys, in real life, that almost never works.)

Previously: Bedbug Registry Creator Talks Infestations, Prevention, and the Worst Reported Cases in New York City

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 20, 2011

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