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Horizontal Transfer of Diatomaceous Earth and Botanical Insecticides in the Common Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius L.; Hemiptera: Cimicidae

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075626
  • Research Article
  • Medicine


Background Horizontal transfer of insecticide occurs when insects contact or ingest an insecticide, return to an aggregation or a nest, and transfer the insecticide to other conspecific insects through contact. This phenomenon has been reported in a number of insects including social insects, however it has not been reported in bed bugs. Since horizontal transfer can facilitate the spread of insecticide into hard to reach spaces, it could contribute greatly to the management of these public health pests. Methodology/Results To demonstrate horizontal transfer of diatomaceous earth and botanical insecticides in C. lectularius, an exposed (donor) bed bug, following a 10-minute acquisition period, was placed with unexposed (recipient) bed bugs. Mortality data clearly demonstrates that diatomaceous earth (DE 51) was actively transferred from a single exposed bug to unexposed bugs in a concentration dependent manner. LC50 values varied from 24.4 mg at 48 h to 5.1 mg at 216 h when a single exposed bed bug was placed with 5 unexposed bed bugs. LT50 values also exhibited a concentration response. LT50 values varied from 1.8 days to 8.4 days when a ‘donor’ bug exposed to 20 and 5 mg of dust respectively was placed with 5 ‘recipient’ bugs. Dust was also actively transferred from adult bed bugs to the nymphs. In addition we observed horizontal transfer of botanical insecticides including neem, ryania, and rotenone to varying degrees. Conclusion/Significance Our data clearly demonstrate horizontal transfer of diatomaceous earth and botanical insecticides in the common bed bug, C. lectularius. Use of a fluorescent dust provided visual confirmation that contaminated bed bugs transfer dust to untreated bed bugs in harborage. This result is important because bedbugs live in hard-to-reach places and interaction between conspecifics can be exploited for delivery and dissemination of management products directed at this public health pest.

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