Bed bugs have been around longer than we thought

by nobugsonme on May 17, 2019 · 0 comments

in bed bug research

The big bed bug news this week is that researchers have found that bed bugs have been around much longer than we thought.

We’ve previously been told that the earliest Cimicidae had bat hosts, and eventually moved on to parasitize humans living in caves. The new research has confirmed that bed bugs originated 100 million years ago, before bats or humans existed. The original host would have been some prehistoric animal.

Much of the research work (involving, among other things, digging around in bat guano in caves) would not appeal to the squeamish. But the researchers also considered other forms of evidence. According to the New York Times:

Insights about bedbugs emerged from other surprising sources, such as Hopi folklore. “They have quite a strong cultural heritage relating to bedbugs,” especially with one species that infests eagles and other birds, said Dr. [Klaus] Reinhardt [of Dresden University]. “The Hopi must have had a lot of contact with this bug, otherwise they wouldn’t have several stories about it.”

The team’s efforts, which began in 2002, have culminated in a sprawling Cimicidae family tree with roots deep in the Cretaceous period. Their data corroborate fossil evidence of a bedbug ancestor, Quasicimex eilapinastes, preserved in 100-million-year-old amber, which was first identified by Michael Engel, a University of Kansas entomologist, in 2008.

It matters how bed bugs have evolved because they’re going to continue evolving.

You can read the research study in the new issue of Current Biology.

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