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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007 May;76(5):987-93.

Resistance to dehydration between bouts of blood feeding in the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is enhanced by water conservation, aggregation, and quiescence.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


To determine how the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, survives in a dry environment for many months without feeding, water-balance characteristics were compared for all stages from first-instar nymphs to adults. This species is characterized by a low net transpiration rate averaging < 0.2%/h, high tolerance for dehydration (30-40% loss in body water), and an impermeable cuticle as indicated by a high critical transition temperature (CTT) in the 35-40 degrees C range, implying that this insect is adapted for desiccation-hardiness. The capacity of adults to survive for 2 weeks at 0.00a(v) (a(v) = % RH/100) with no access to food or water exemplifies this trait. In contrast to more mature stages, first-instar nymphs contain more water, lose water at a faster rate, experience abrupt water loss at a lower temperature, and survive less time in dry air, suggesting that this stage is the most sensitive to water stress. This insect relies on blood to replenish water stores; none of the stages examined have the capacity to absorb water vapor (critical equilibrium activity, CEA > or = 0.99a(v)), and they drank only sparingly when offered free water. As the bed bugs progress through their development, they gradually reduce their water requirements while increasing their desiccation resistance. Surviving water stress is considerably enhanced behaviorally by quiescence, characterized by prolonged periods of inactivity, and by the formation of clusters that generate a water-conserving group effect.

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