Bed bugs. They live in your mattress. They infest your books. They crawl all over you and suck your blood in the middle of the night, they terrorize you and ruin your life, they make you constantly itchy, or constantly afraid of feeling itchy. Some among us won’t even put their bags on the floors of bars anymore, in fear of catching them. Could they get worse? Oh, yes. Bed bugs are so strong, so impervious to human assault, so ruinous to our lives in part, say researchers, because they are able to inbreed. And they do it well. Probably they even like it! Reports Time: “All it takes to infest an entire apartment building, for example, is one single mated female that hatches her offspring; after that, the brothers and sisters can mate with each other and keep the population booming.”
Most insects actually can’t successfully inbreed (cockroaches do have this skill), and typical bug sex with cousins and uncles and such will only cause mutations and eventually kill off the population. But bed bugs, terrifying bed bugs, have “evolved the ability to withstand extensive inbreeding without deleterious effects.” This makes them genetically more resistant to chemicals, and, as a whole, able to survive and thrive in new locations with one single mated female, God help us.
Good news for the impending blockbuster horror movie about bed bugs is bad news for the rest of us.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2011