Biology of Bedbugs

Our work on bedbugs, mainly Cimex lectularius, nearly spans two decades. Inevitably, we acquired some expertise and so are happy to collaborate on applied research in this area. This work mainly applies to 1) reproduction, 2) physiology and 3) material science. Our group was also involved in the annotation of the bedbug genome and revealed cultural aspects of bedbugs.

Two books:

Klaus Reinhardt 2018. Bedbug. Animal Series. Reaktion Books, London. Link

Klaus Reinhardt 2014. Literarische Wanzen. Eine Anthologie. Nebst einer kleinen Natur- und Kulturgeschichte. Neofelis Verlag, Berlin. Link

Four general papers:

Benoit JB, Adelmann ZN, Reinhardt K et al. Unique features of a global human ectoparasite identified through sequencing of the bed bug genome. Nature Communications 7: 10165. link

Reinhardt K. 2019. Bedbugs. Current Biology 29: 1118

Reinhardt K. 2018. Bettwanzen: ungesehen, unerwünscht, unbezwungen. Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau71: 524-533. Link.

Roth S, Balvín O, Siva-Jothy MT, Di Iorio O, Benda P, Calva, O, Faundez EI, Anwarali Khan FA, McFadzen M, Lehnert MP, Naylor R, Simov N, Morrow EH, Willassen E, Reinhardt K. 2019. Bedbugs (Cimicidae) evolved before their bat hosts and did not co-speciate with ancient humans. Current Biology 29: 1847–1853. Link (behind paywall but see the nice video abstract)

1) Reproduction

THE INNER MICROBE – Balvin O, Roth S, Talbot B, Reinhardt K. 2018. Co-speciation in bedbug Wolbachia parallel the pattern in nematode hosts. Scientific Reports. Link

BLIND! – Eckel B, Guo R, Reinhardt K. 2017. More pitfalls with sperm viability staining and a viability-based stress test to characterise sperm quality. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Link

LOST IN TRANSLATION? – Otti O, Deines P, Hammerschmidt K, Reinhardt K. 2017. Regular wounding in a natural system: bacteria associated with reproductive organs of bedbugs and their quorum sensing abilities. Frontiers in Immunology (Molecular Innate Immunity) 8:1855. Link

STUCK! – Reinhardt K, Voigt D, Gorb SN. 2019. Evidence for a sexually selected function of the attachment system in bedbugs Cimex lectularius (Heteroptera, Cimicidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 222:  jeb206136. Link

DIVERSE – The seminal fluid of bedbugs contains about 100 different proteins. Paper here. And many others substances.

2) Physiology

bedbug_brain2In collaboration with C. Wegener (Würzburg) and R. Predel (Köln), we were involved in annotation of peptides and peptide receptors. This work is augmented by mass spectrometry approaches to quantify the composition of peptides in different parts of the brain (see left for a picture of the entire nervous system).

This work could be expanded to be combined with our preliminary work where we separated the effect of stretch receptors in the gut and the cuticle. This may be an important contribution to identify how blood-feeding insects feed (and how their bite may be prevented!).

ON YOUR NERVES? – Predel R, Neupert S, Derst C, Reinhardt K, Wegener C*. 2018. Neuropeptidomics of the bed bug Cimex lectularius. Journal of Proteome Research 17: 440-454. Link. – The neuropeptidome of the bedbug shows two out of 144 neuropeptides deviate from the ‘insect norm’ – corazonin and myosuppressin. Can they be targeted for specific control?

INFLATED – We developed a technique to inflate bedbugs with air to seperate effects of abdomen and gut distension after a blood meal.

RESISTANT – Fountain T, Ravinet Mark, Naylor R, Reinhardt K, Butlin RK. 2016. A linkage map and QTL analysis for pyrethroid resistance in the bed bug Cimex lectularius. G3-Genes Genomes Genetics 6:4059-4066. link

3) Material Science

Mainly guided by predictions of evolutionary biology, we search for interesting aspects of material science in bedbugs. For example, we used a microscopy technique based on the decay of the signal of autofluorescent molecules to characterise aspects of the cuticle of bedbugs. Basically, bedbug females have a patch of self-sealing material through which males repeatedly pierce, in order to deliver sperm. We also used this approach to characterise aspects of the metabolism of sperm cells. In collaboration with Dagmar Voigt, we characterised the structures of how bedbugs adhere to surfaces – hypothesising that these structures evolved by sexual selection (attachment to partner), not natural selection. With Dagmar, we also work on material aspects of bedbug eggs.

SOFT – Michels J, Gorb S, Reinhardt K. 2015. Reduction of female copulatory damage by resilin represents evidence for tolerance in sexual conflict. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, link

SHINY II – Reinhardt K, Breunig HG, König K. 2017. Autofluorescence lifetime variation in the cuticle of the bedbug Cimex lectularius. Arthropod Structure and Development 46: 56-62 link

SHINY I – Reinhardt K, Breunig HG, Uchugonova A, König K. 2015. Sperm metabolism is altered during storage by female insects: evidence from two-photon autofluorescence lifetime measurements in bedbugs. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. link

Reinhardt K, Voigt D, Gorb SN. 2019. Evidence for a sexually selected function of the attachment system in bedbugs Cimex lectularius (Heteroptera, Cimicidae). Journal of Experimental Biology 222: jeb206136. doi:10.1242/jeb.206136