Research Indicates Emergence of New Bed Bug Species

According to new research published in Molecular Ecology, bed bugs living with humans are genetically distinct from their cousins that feed on other animals, specifically bats. The research supports the hypothesis that bed bugs started out feeding on bats in caves. When ancient humans started living in caves, however, some of these bed bugs moved on to the new hosts.

After humans left caves for other dwellings, they brought bed bugs with them. These bed bugs had to adapt to their new situations. For example, bed bugs had to shift their schedule from feeding during the day to at night when humans slept.

Scientists also found that bed bugs that feed on humans have longer, thinner legs than their bat-feeding counterparts, possibly because they no longer need to cling to bats hanging from cave roofs. If bed bugs continue to inhabit buildings and feed on humans, the researchers say they will eventually diverge far enough from the bat-feeding bugs to form a distinct species all of their own.