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Day 05/01/2011

Bug Affairs

Everything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t want to know) about bed bugs: Hugh Pennington, Bug-Affairs, London R. Books., Jan 6. 2011, at 8.

Much attention has been paid to their method of reproduction. Males mate preferentially with recently fed females. The male sexual organ, called the paramere, has a sharp point, which the male bug uses to penetrate the abdominal wall of the female. Sperm are injected into the abdominal cavity. This process is sometimes lethal; repeated matings reduce the female lifespan. This sexual conflict of interests has been of great interest to evolutionary biologists.

Males attempt to mate with any moving object the size of a fed female, including juvenile bugs and males who have sucked blood. But in these cases they dismount quickly – good news both for the male, who doesn’t waste his sperm, and for the mountee, since penetration would quite likely have perforated his guts to mortal effect.