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'Super bed bugs' becoming immune to insecticides thanks to growth of thicker skins

By Mirror | Apr 14th 2016 | 2 min read
By Mirror | April 14th 2016

Bed bugs are resisting being killed by insecticides because they have grown thicker skins.

The pesky insects have been building up resistance in the past two decades by becoming immune to common insecticide.

They were nicknamed 'super bed bugs' after scientists discovered they weren't reacting to neonicotinoids or neonics because of their widespread use.

Now, new research has found the pests have also developed a thicker cuticle that enables them to survive exposure to commonly used poisons.

The oval-shaped, flat and up to 5mm long insects live in cracks and crevices in and around the bed and crawl out at night to feast after being attracted by body heat and carbon dioxide.

Global travel has been blamed for a recent resurgence of bed bugs in homes as the creatures hitch a ride on clothing or in luggage.

And the new research could spell even bigger obstacles in the race to get rid of the bugs.

PhD candidate David Lilly of the University of Sydney said: "The new findings reveal that one way bed bugs beat insecticides is by developing a thicker 'skin.'

"Bed bugs, like all insects, are covered by an exoskeleton called a cuticle.

"Using scanning electron microscopy, we were able to compare the thickness of cuticle taken from specimens of bed bugs resistant to insecticides and from those more easily killed by those same insecticides."

Comparing the cuticle thickness of the bed bugs revealed a stunning difference - the thicker the cuticle, the more likely the bed bugs were to survive being sprayed by insecticides.

This could explain why failures in the control of bed bug infestations are so common.

But the battle is not lost in eliminating the tiny small blood-sucking insects.

Mr Lilly said: "If we understand the biological mechanisms bed bugs use to beat insecticides, we may be able to spot a chink in their armour that we can exploit with new strategies."

He added measuring the thickness of bed bug cuticle wasn't an easy task.

Mr Lilly said: "The findings are exciting but collecting data was frustrating.

"Taking microscopic measurements of bed bug legs requires a steady hand and patience, lots of patience."

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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