This is one battle humans wouldn’t want to lose. In the ongoing war between bedbugs and the humans, the bugs may be winning as a new study has revealed that they have developed resistance to a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, the shortened name.
Neonics are the most widely used group of insecticides today and several products have been developed for bed bug control over the past few years that combine neonics with pyrethroids, another class of insecticide.
Alvaro Romero from New Mexico State University and Dr. Troy Anderson from Virginia Tech collected bed bugs from human dwellings in Cincinnati and Michigan and exposed them to four different neonics: acetamiprid, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.
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They also applied these neonics to a bed bug colony kept by Dr. Harold Harlan for more than 30 years without any insecticide exposure, and to a pyrethroid-resistant population from Jersey City that had not been exposed to neonics since they were collected in New Jersey in 2008.
Unsurprisingly, the Harlan bed bugs died even when exposed to very small amounts of the neonics. The Jersey City bed bugs fared slightly better, showing moderate resistance to acetamiprid and dinotefuran, but not to imidacloprid or thiamethoxam.
The authors believe that the detection of neonicotinoid resistance in the Jersey City bed bugs, which were collected before the widespread use of neonics, could be due to pre-existing resistance mechanisms.
When exposed to insecticides, bed bugs produce “detoxifying enzymes” to counter them, and the researchers found that the levels of detoxifying enzymes in the Jersey City bed bugs were higher than those of the susceptible Harlan population.
Compared to the Harlan control group, the Michigan bed bugs were 462 times more resistant to imidacloprid, 198 times more resistant to dinotefuran, 546 times more resistant to thiamethoxam, and 33,333 times more resistant to acetamiprid.
The Cincinnati bed bugs were 163 times more resistant to imidacloprid, 226 times more resistant to thiamethoxam, 358 times more resistant to dinotefuran, and 33,333 times more resistant to acetamiprid. The study is published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.