If you're rearing a bed bug colony, they need blood. Yours, if you don't mind.
Someone else's, if there's no one else around.
A big draw at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's recent open house, "Parasite Palooza," was a bed-bug feeding demonstration, featuring bed bugs from a UC Davis-reared colony.
When it was feeding time for the parasitic insects, Cimex lectularius, two scientists stepped forth and offered their arms in the name of science.
Charlotte Herbert, who is studying for her doctorate in entomology, volunteered to be the first "blood donor." Next to step up was nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, who received her doctorate last December at UC Davis.
The particulars: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart, handed each scientist a bed bug enclosed in fine netting. The netting proved fine enough to prevent escape, but large enough to allow feeding.
"We don't want any escapees," Yang said.
The insects originated from the parent colony of UC Davis entomology graduate Danielle Wishon, now a forensic investigator for the Sacramento Police Department. She began rearing them several years ago, intending to do research. Later she gave some of her bed bugs to UC Davis researcher Jenella Loye of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who in turn loaned some to the Bohart Museum for its "Parasitic Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My."
Wishon says it's fairly easy to rear bed bugs. "If you want a fast growing colony, you can feed them once a week. When I was very actively feeding them, I chose to feed them once or twice a month so the colony didn't get too big too fast. I've gone as much as six months without feeding them, and they repopulated just fine. I started this colony several years back, but I would occasionally add individuals I find on mattresses discarded by UC Davis students during the great fall quarter move."
Wishon acknowledged that in the past, she 'sub-let' feeding responsibilities to forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and to entomology student/Bohart associate Wade Spencer. "Hey, they offered!" she said.
Has Wishon ever encountered bed bugs in a hotel room?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation."
"Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep," the CDC points out on its website. "These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep."
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease, according to the CDC. However, excessive scratching can "sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection."
Wishon noted that some people experience a "pretty negative reaction to the saliva--flu-like symptoms if I remember correctly. That's really the reason I want to keep feeding a colony even though I am not going to be doing research on them anytime soon--most of the older researchers I know who once fed a colony but stopped, or who traveled to countries where they were common and were exposed regularly but then moved back, and were exposed to them many years later, seem to develop hyper sensitivity to bed bug saliva. This could be completely anecdotal and coincidental, but I've heard this familiar story enough times to want to error on the side of caution and continue feeding without years of breaking. I don't want to develop a negative reaction to exposure."
Both Camp and Herbert said they basically didn't feel much of anything when the bed bugs began feeding. Here's why: "When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten," according to the CDC. "Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea -- a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites."
Any reactions? "It took a while, but I did react to the bed bug bites," Camp said. "On the third day (Jan. 25), I saw raised red marks on my right arm, that were a bit itchy. Guess it took me three days to react."
Said Herbert: "I had a very small red mark where it bit, but no lasting marks or feelings. I felt it bite, but just barely. However, I have had bed bugs before while visiting my grandparents in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the bites were pretty terrible! I was itchy and thrashed all night, I didn't realize what was happening until the morning when I was covered in little bite marks and we found the bed bugs on the edges of the mattress. They looked very well fed!
No wonder folks say: "Good night! Sleep tight! And don't let the bed bugs bite."
"Go native" with native bees, that is.
A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge.
In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees.
In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo. It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves.
Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination.
If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)
Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.
You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.
Most of us remember the old nursery rhyme, "Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite," and vow to do everything we can to avoid any blood-letting.
Whether we call them "blood suckers," "menace in the mattress," or "human parasites," it's not cool to be bitten by bed bugs.
"Bed bug biting," however, is not part of their job descriptions.
The crowd watched in awe as the reddish-brown blood suckers turned from flat to bulging. The insects, Cimex lectularius, are "visually adorable," Wishon said, noting that they are pests but they don't spread diseases. She keeps two colonies in Briggs Hall for research purposes.
Several visitors told of their personal experiences with bed bugs--in their hotels and homes, and in their bedding and baggage.
Wishon made sure no one took any home.
For more information on bed bugs, check out the Entomological Society of America (ESA) website on bed bug resources. ESA includes the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM). Another good source is the relatively new University of Florida bed bug site.
"Despite their name, bed bugs can infest areas other than beds," according to the University of Florida website. "They tend to locate in cracks and crevices, such as behinds baseboards, wall outlets, and wallpaper; between bed joints, slats, and dresser drawers; and along mattress seams and in linens and clothes. Most bed bug infestations occur in the home, along with hotels, dormitories, and cruise ships. Bed bugs easily transfer from one site to another through infested belongings like clothes, suitcases, second-hand furniture, beds, and bedding."
Bed bugs, lice, ticks, mites, fleas and mosquitoes.
If you want to see and/or learn more about them, attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology's "Snuggle Bugs" open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
It's free and open to the public, and families especially are encouraged to attend, says Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
A highlight will be a display of bed bugs reared by Danielle Wishon, a 2013 UC Davis entomology graduate and an affiliate of the Bohart Museum. Wishon. She plans to feed them (her blood) around 2 p.m.
Wishon began rearing her first research colony of bed bugs in October 2012. She's since added a second colony. She's deliberately keeping the colonies small. Total count: around 100.
Wishon, a lab assistant at the California Department of Food and Agriculture since late last summer, said she became interested in bed bugs while studying with UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey. Also spurring her interest: the questions asked at the Bohart. "Visitors were bringing in various insects and asking if they were bed bugs," she said. Among the insects: carpet beetles, dog ticks, swallow bugs and bat bugs.
Wishon aims to dispel the myths about bed bugs. There's a lot of misinformation on the Internet, she says. Unlike many insects, "they don't spread diseases."
Wishon maintains her colonies in Briggs Hall, home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Any escapees? No. She's especially observant with the first instars, which are about one millimeter long.
Wishon is a past president of the UC Davis Entomology Club and recipient of the department’s 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis and housing nearly eight million specimens, is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
Special attractions at the Bohart include a live "petting zoo," with critters such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, millipedes, tarantulas and praying mantids. Visitors can also shop at the year-around gift shop (or online) for t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. The 35-page book also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart.
Sunday' open house is just one of the many scheduled weekend open houses held throughout the academic year. Regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information, including information on group tours, is available from Tabatha Yang at email@example.com.
Indeed. Those attending the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Saturday, Feb. 2, will see them--and see them feeding.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology is one of six museums or educational centers on the UC Davis campus holding an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. This is the second annual campuswide Biodiversity Museum Day, aka "Super Science Saturday," as it's the day before the Super Bowl. The other five are the Botanical Conservatory, Center for Plant Diversity, the Geology Museum, the Anthropology Museum, and the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology. Maps will be available at each site. The event is free and open to the public.
Now, back to the bed bugs.
Danielle Wishon, an undergraduate student majoring in entomology, will be feeding her bed bug colony at 2 p.m. at the Bohart Museum, which is located in 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane. Wishon is rearing a colony, now approaching 100 bed bugs, in a research lab in Briggs Hall.
"Aside from the fact that I find them visually adorable, I am interested in the current public panic over their current increase in population around the United States," said Wishon, who took control of the colony in October 2012. "The idea that several little animals will crawl up to you while you sleep and feed on your blood really disturbs most people, despite the fact that they do not transmit any disease."
Wishon, who studies with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and works in the Bohart Museum with director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, loves entomology. She's is a past president of the UC Davis Entomology Club and recipient of the department’s 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award.
"I think the general public would be very interested to see them feeding," Wishon said. "There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet about them, so it would also be a good opportunity for Q and A."
And speaking of Q and A, be sure to access the Entomological Society of America's bed bug resource page. You'll find information on "the menace in the mattress" (Cimex lectularlu) from all over the country, including right here at UC Davis. The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's Pest Note says:
"A single feeding may take up to 10 minutes, and feels like a pin prick, but because feeding usually occurs at night when people are asleep they are not aware they have been bitten until afterwards. However, saliva injected during the feeding can later produce large swellings on the skin that itch and may become irritated and infected when scratched. Swelling may not develop until a day or more after feeding, and some people do not show symptoms. Bed bugs currently are not considered to be disease carriers."