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Commentary :: Environment
How to ‘Exterminate' the bed bug species
19 Dec 2006
I feel the need to say one last thing about bedbugs, one last thing that I think really needs to be said.
A proposal for a scientific experiment using as its subject that remarkable living example of evolution in action, the common bedbug.
Bedbugs are the descendants of what were once bugs which sucked sap out of plants. At sometime in the past a very hungry ‘plantbug' stuck its sucking beak into a human being and sucked some blood, and thus began the long history of some blood addicted bug locked into an endless battle with a human host who understandably does not wish to serve as a salad bar for a blood sucking parasite.

Bedbugs are remarkable examples of evolution in action. Some species are in evolutionary stasis, but the bedbug is active and never static, this process of constant change and adaptation being a requirement if a bug is going to survive by targeting a human being.

It has occurred to me that every attempt to force bedbugs into extinction has failed, since such violent tactics contradict the interests of the bedbug, since bedbugs are driven by a powerful instinct to survive. For this reason I have come up with an idea which would involve eliciting the cooperation of bedbugs rather than inspiring the resistance of bedbugs, which is all we ever accomplish with chemical spraying.

When bedbugs are raised in laboratories they are kept alive by feeding them through the use of membranes containing either pig or chicken blood. Since bedbugs were once sap suckers instead of blood suckers like they are now, it has occurred to me that given how evolutionary active this species, it would be an interesting experiment in living evolution to begin the process of weaning bedbugs off of human blood and back onto plant sap. For you see, bedbugs are just bugs and they are currently trapped in an endless cycle of battling with some unwilling human host for the blood they now require if their species is to survive. Since a human being is the partner of that bug in this symbiotic relationship, and since it is the human who has all the brains in that symbiotic relationship, it should be possible for the human being to use those brains to train bedbugs to find a new food source, and thus bring the battle between bedbugs and human beings to a permanent end, by ‘exterminating' the bedbug species by weaning them off of human blood.

My proposal for such an experiment would involve diluting the blood contained in feeding membranes with a small amount of sap from plants. With each generation of bed bugs produced, the amount of sap would be increased and the amount of blood gradually reduced. Since bedbugs are such adaptable creatures, given enough time, and enough generations of bedbugs, I would expect their to emerge at the end of the experiment a strain of ‘plant bugs' which is where bedbugs first began their evolutionary journey, and where they must return.

Such an approach has never been attempted, and if I had the money to fund the experiment myself, I would begin today, because I am convinced this approach would work, and it is certainly worth making an attempt.

Once ‘plant bugs' have been created it would then be required that ‘plant bugs' be introduced repeatedly into field populations of bedbugs, so that gene swapping could take place. This would be a long term project, and is not a quick fix for any individual's bedbug problem at the present time. It would also be important that human beings cooperate with the process of eliminating bedbugs by refusing to allow bedbugs to bite them, thus putting evolutionary pressure on the species, which would then make the ‘plant bug' the most well adapted for survival, while the blood sucking bedbug disappears. In the end the species survives, and since this approach does not violate the law of nature, which demands that bedbugs survive, even if that means surmounting impossible odds, something they do again and again, such an approach has a much better chance of succeeding over the long term than the hostile chemical approach, which violates the laws of nature and thus is found to fail again and again, bringing with it only short term gain in exchange for delayed pain (one generation living bedbug free and comfortable lives, only to pass the plague onto their children and their grandchildren).

This work is in the public domain
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