New studies show that inbreeding among bed bugs leads to widespread infestations. Research found that only one or two bugs can be the cause of a severe infestation in one location, caused by breeding with offspring and siblings. Unlike most species, inbreeding by bed bugs can lead to healthy generations of new bugs.
Entomologists from North Carolina State University recently completed a genetic analysis of bed bugs taken from various infested buildings along the East Coast. The study showed a very low genetic diversity among bugs within the same apartment buildings.
“We kept discovering the same thing. Within a given apartment, or even a given building, there was extremely low genetic diversity,” said Coby Schal, entomologist at North Carolina State. “In most cases there’s just a single female that founded the population.”
Schal explained that, like cockroaches, bed bugs have found a way to inbreed successfully. At this time, researchers are still unsure what is protecting the bugs from the population crashes usually seen with inbreeding.