Off-host aggregation behavior and sensory basis of arrestment by Cimex lectularius (Heteroptera: Cimicidae)

J. F. Olson, R. D. Moon, S. A. Kells

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47 Scopus citations


The bed bug, Cimex lectularius, aggregates under filter paper disks previously stained by adults. A multiple-choice assay was used to determine differences in aggregation behavior among two strains, multiple lifestages, and levels of starvation. There were no differences in level of aggregation between established and recently derived strains, or among adults and nymphs of different instars. Propensity to aggregate decreased with time since feeding, but preference for stained disks remained high. We also examined which sensory structures mediate aggregation, and whether antennectomy affected movement, orientation, and arrestment under stained disks. Bed bugs that were left intact, blinded, or surgically altered by the removal of probosci or the distal antennal segments exhibited high levels of aggregation under stained disks. However, the removal of the pedicel significantly reduced aggregation compared to intact bugs. Video recordings of movement and orientation by bugs with intact, partial and complete antennectomies demonstrated that neither partial nor complete antennectomies affected walking speed, path straightness, direction of movement or frequency of encounters with either stained or clean disks. However, complete removal of both antennae significantly reduced the percentage of encounters with stained disks that resulted in arrestment. These findings suggest aggregation by bed bugs is a result of arrestment mediated by direct, close-range contact between sensilla on the pedicel and stained disks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-587
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Robin Todd from the Insect Control Research Center, Baltimore, MD, and field associates of the Ecolab Pest Elimination Division for supplying specimens for laboratory colonies. Sandy Weisberg helped with Proc NLMIXED. Karen Mesce and Peter Sorensen provided helpful ideas for experiments, and they and two anonymous reviewers gave helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was financially supported by the Pest Elimination Division of Ecolab, Inc. and University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station projects MN-019 and MN-050.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Antennectomies
  • Arrestment
  • Bed bug
  • Movement
  • Orientation


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