Thinking of going as a bloodsucker for Halloween? Well let me tell you, vampires are so passé. The latest monsters capturing headlines are bed bugs. Their increased resilience to common pesticides has led to a resurgence of the pests in major cities and has scientists scrambling to discover a chink in their armor. Though it may not be the needed stake in the heart, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified an anti-attractant chemical given off by immature female bed bugs to deter the sexual advances of males.
Why? Because bed bugs mate through “traumatic insemination,” where males pierce the abdomen of their mate with their needle sharp paramere to directly inject sperm into the abdominal cavity. (Seriously, could bed bugs be any more disgusting?) Young female bed bugs are at risk for wound infection and death if they are traumatically inseminated before their exoskeleton has fully adapted. By emitting a chemical status signal, sexually immature females let males know that they are not ready and not in the mood. This has the added benefit of saving males the energy cost associated with unproductive mating. Researchers confirmed the potency of the anti-attractant by applying it to mature female bed bugs and subsequently observing decreased mating frequency.
In related news, bed bugs (male and female alike) are also putting a damper on the love lives of couples in New York. According to recent interviews conducted by CNN, many New Yorkers said they’d bail out of a potential relationship if their mate had bed bugs.
If any of this is making you rethink the idea of being a bed bug for Halloween, just keep in mind all of the great “getting into bed” pick-up lines you could use!