But why does this darn bug “love” us so much? this strict hematophagous – meaning “blood eating” – insect can only survive thanks to hot-blooded hosts. Some specialize in bats, others on birds. Two are particularly fond of humans, C. lectularius and C. hemipterus.
All bed bugs are equipped with mouthpieces that have been transformed to bite through the integumentary system of its host – the skin, fur or feathers that protect it.
All the species of this family (there are about a hundred in the world) live at the expense of their hosts, and feed on them in their nests or special habitats such as caves
This is where climate change comes in. Not today, but tens of thousands of years ago. The first modern human populations had to deal with several glaciations – the previous one in Europe lasted from the period -115,000 to -10,000.
Given the cold climate in formerly temperate areas, humans sheltered themselves in caves when possible. Unfortunately, Cimicidae and other parasites already lived there, taking advantage of the presence of birds, bats and other hot-blooded mammals.
It is thought that bed bugs’ developed their fondness for humans and their blood during this time. They then hitched a ride with us on our migrations during warmer weather, and a true domestication – known as commensalism, to be precise – was established.
While still theoretical, this hypothesis is supported by genetic analysis of two lineages of bed bugs: one feeds off bats, the other off humans. There is also archaeological evidence of the presence of Cimicidae in early human settlements. And looking farther back, the first known Cimicidae, found in Burmese amber dating about 99 million years ago, had wings.
This relative long history is perhaps only the beginning, because it seems that there has not yet been an adaptation of human pathogens to take advantage of this “new” vector.
While the bites of bed bugs are unpleasant, they’re not particularly dangerous. This is a crucial problem: if the viruses bacteria that infect humans could be transmitted through bed-bug bites, what does the future hold for us?