Understanding genetic variation among populations of medically significant pest insects is important in studying insecticide resistance and insect dispersal. The bed bug, Cimex lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), is widespread hematophagus insect pest around the world, including North America, and it has recently been identified as an emerging resurgent pest. To date, no studies have been conducted on genetic variation of this species. For this study, 136 adult bed bugs representing 22 sampled populations from nine U.S. states, Canada, and Australia were subjected to genetic analysis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify and sequence a region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) 16S rRNA gene and a portion of the nuclear rRNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) 1 region. For the 397-bp 16S marker, a 12 nucleotide sites in total were polymorphic, and 19 unique haplotypes were observed. Heterozygosity was observed within many of the sampled populations for the mtDNA marker. This suggests that bed bug populations did not undergo a genetic bottleneck as one would expect from insecticide control during the 1940s and 1950s, but instead, that populations may have been maintained on other hosts such as birds and bats. In contrast to the high amount of heterozygosity observed with the mitochondrial DNA marker, no genetic variation in the 589-bp nuclear rRNA marker was observed. This suggests increased gene flow of previously isolated bed bug populations in the United States, and given the absence of barriers to gene flow, the spread of insecticide resistance may be rapid.
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