A recent study has suggested that bed bugs evolved at least 100 million years ago and existed at the same time as the dinosaurs. So what are the origins of this household pest?
Have you ever been bitten by a bed bug while you were in your bed on when you feel asleep on your sofa? Have you ever found little, red blood marks on your sheets? If this is the case then there is a very strong chance that you have bed bugs. These little insects are a real household pest in today’s society. However despite our dislike for these creatures, we know very little about their origin. A recent study published in the journal Current Biology, sheds more light on the origins of these hated insects.
Bed bugs existed 100 million years ago…
A team of researchers from the University of Sheffield, UK have recently compared the DNA of 34 species of bed begs collected from countries around the world over 15 years. Their results highlight that bed bugs are in fact much older than bats, the mammal that were previously believed to be the first host for the insect around 50 to 60 million years ago. According to their results, these insects already existed in the Upper Cretaceous period around 100 million years ago.
“To think that the pests that live in our beds today evolved more than 100 million years ago and were walking the earth side by side with dinosaurs, was a revelation,” explained Mike Siva-Jothy, from the Department of Animal and Plant Science at the University of Sheffield and main author of the study. “It shows that the evolutionary history of bed bugs is far more complex than we previously thought.”
Who was the first host
Although bed bugs lived at the same time as the great dinosaurs, it is very unlikely that these little pests attacked them. These insects generally feed off animal blood which they can access from their “home”. This home could be a nest, burrow or a bed for example. However this stay-at-home lifestyle wasn’t adopted by the dinosaurs. For the time being, it is unsure which animal was the first host for bed bugs.
Researchers explains that the two main species known for attacking humans – the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug are also a lot older than the first humans. As a result, humans didn’t “create” these two species over the course of their evolution as was previously believed. In fact these insects evolved well before humans existed.
Researchers believe that these new elements will help us better understand how bed bugs evolved and produced their characteristic traits that we know today. As a result, these new findings could help to create new and better ways to control this household pest.