Good evening and welcome to this week's edition of "Tiny Creatures" with me Professor Pudding. This evening we are looking at a sadly maligned and misunderstood little darling called, in German, the "nachtkrabbler" or night crawler. We know it as "cimex lectularius" - the common bedbug. It has been a faithful companion of the human race for millennia and it was one of Europe's first exports to North America. That's why they sent us the grey squirrel and Kentucky Fried Chicken!
Normally living for six to nine months, the bedbug is an infrequent feeder. They like to gorge themselves with warm blood for five minutes and might not feed again for several days. Adults may measure 4/5mm in length and as some readers will testify, they are visible to the naked eye - as are the itchy red spots they often leave on our bare flesh. Their preferred feeding time is just before dawn. Like mini-vampires they detest sunlight.
Sex is something special for bedbugs. Instead of the usual tried and tested method, the male whips out his hypodermic organ and simply pierces the female's outer shell, depositing semen directly inside her body cavity. It's called traumatic insemination. I doubt that it will ever catch on with human beings but stranger things have happened at British Conservative Party conferences.
It would be eminently possible to begin a new blog devoted entirely to bedbugs, their lives, new discoveries about them, rates of infestation, control methods and so on. Undoubtedly it would receive many hits. I suggest that this is something that "Anonymous" who commented on my last blogpost might like to develop.
This may be hard to believe but over in The States there are such creatures as bedbug detection dogs that are able to sniff out the sources of bedbug infestations, allowing better targeting of pesticides. During the daytime, as bedbugs await the return of their kind hosts, they tend to gather in bedroom crevices or in the edge piping of mattresses. They're probably just listening to bedbug music, socialising or comparing tactics ahead of nightfall.
Don't you agree - entomology is fascinating? And if you're interested in bedbugs, a good place to begin your studies is the next hotel room you book. They're especially fond of the varied diet provided by an ever-changing succession of guests. Next week - the head louse. Don't have nightmares!