Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Master of Science (MS)
Agriculture, Food and Environment
Dr. Kenneth F. Haynes
The bed bug, Cimex lectularius L., is a common household pest that feeds on the blood of its human hosts. Unlike many other hematophagic arthropods, bed bugs have not demonstrated the ability to vector disease; yet its presence in a household often leads to fear and anxiety amongst its human host victims. Bed bugs spend the majority of their time aggregating in enclosed and hidden locations, making it difficult to detect and eradicate them. One of the significant mediators of aggregation behavior is an aggregation pheromone. The pheromone has been identified to be six chemical compounds, five volatile compounds that attract conspecific bed bugs to an aggregation, and a sixth compound, histamine, that arrests them at the aggregation location. Subtle variations in the semiochemical signature between different life stages of the bed bug may influence the make-up and structure of individual aggregations. There also appears to be differences in aggregation behavior between different populations of bed bugs. My research focuses on determining how aggregation behavior varies between different life stages of the bed bug, and between different populations of bed bugs. I developed a method to quantify aggregation and found distinct differences in aggregation between populations of bed bugs, but not between sexes. I then measured the production of histamine between life stages and determined that histamine is produced by all life stages, starting at low levels with first instars, and gradually increasing to adults, with females producing more histamine than males. Finally, I conducted a series of choice tests to compare the semiochemical signal produced by males, females or fifth instars in their feces and compared their responses to aggregation cues from each other. All life stages tested responded to the fecal extracts over controls, except males who did not significantly choose female extracts over a control. When given a choice between fecal extracts between two different life stages, all groups responded equally to the extracts, with the exception that females preferred female fecal extracts over fifth instar extracts. Overall, these studies demonstrate differences in aggregation behavior between populations of bed bugs, but little support for differences between life stages within a population.
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This research was supported by gifts from various companies within the pest management industry, as well as annual grants (2016-2020) from the Kentucky Pest Management Association.
Baker, Paul D., "Aggregation Behavior in the Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius L." (2020). Theses and Dissertations--Entomology. 50.