This is Why the Orkin Man Can’t Kill Bedbugs (And What Can)

According to the first ever genetic analysis of the bedbug, the parasites have developed a resistance to commonly-used pesticides.



Blood-sucking bedbugs are quickly making their way to major metropolitan areas around the world, and pesticides don’t seem to be helping. The reason, according to the first ever genetic analysis of the bedbug, is that the parasites have developed a resistance to the pesticides commonly used to eradicate the pests.

Entemologists at Ohio State University revealed this week that bedbugs are rapidly gaining resistance to popular pesticides (i.e. pyrethroids) through changes in their genetic makeup.

“The insecticides being used right now are based on the idea that
resistance in bedbugs is caused by point mutations in genes,” explained Omprakash Mittapalli, corresponding author of the study, in a statement. “But we are finding out that the mode of resistance could
be attributed to a combination of changes in the bug’s genetic makeup
(such as mutations) as well as transcriptomic adjustments leading to
differential gene expression. Pinpointing such defense mechanisms and
the associated genes could lead to the development of novel methods of
control that are more effective.” Other genetic changes could be giving the pests sturdier exoskeletons that are more resistant to pesticide penetration.

In other words, bedbugs are better at adapting to our pesticides than anyone ever suspected. The good news: now that researchers have decoded the bedbug genome, they can work on developing better, stronger pesticides. In the meantime, bedbug sufferers can still turn to surefire (but expensive) methods like Vikane and heat treatment.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more