Little is known about what factors influence the climbing ability of bed bugs, Cimex lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), in relation to the various surfaces they encounter. We examined how sex, time since last fed, and what surfaces the bed bugs were in contact with affected their climbing performance. The effects of sex and time since fed were tested by counting the number of bed bugs able to climb a 45° slope. The pulling force was recorded using an analytical balance technique that captured the sequential vertical pulling force output of bed bugs attached to various surfaces. Recently fed female bed bugs were found to have the most difficulty in climbing smooth surfaces in comparison with males. This difference can be explained by the larger weight gained from bloodmeals by female bed bugs. A variety of vertical pulling forces were observed on surfaces ranging from sandpaper to talc powder-covered glass. For surfaces not treated with talc powder, bed bugs generated the least amount of vertical pulling force from synthetically created 0.6-µm plastron surfaces. This vast range in the ability of bed bugs to grip onto various surfaces may have implications on limiting bed bugs dispersal and hitchhiking behaviors.
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Vol. 52 • No. 3