Bug-Affairs

Hugh Pennington

Bedbugs never went away. DDT gave them a hard time in the 1940s and for years afterwards, until Rachel Carson’s campaigns outlawed it, but resistant strains survived. Other insecticides – synthetic organophosphates and pyrethroids – have come and gone, but none has been a challenge for the bugs’ versatile genomes. Blood is their only food. The bug explores the skin of its victim with its antennae. It grips the skin with its legs for leverage, raises its beak, and plunges it into the tissues. It probes vigorously, tiny teeth at the tip of the beak tearing the tissues to forge a path until it finds a suitable blood vessel. A full meal takes 10 to 15 minutes. A hungry bug is squat and flat like a lentil. When replete, its distension shapes it like a long berry. A bug will feed weekly from any host that is handy.

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