Circadian rhythm of spontaneous locomotor activity in the bed bug, Cimex lectularius L.

Alvaro Romero, Michael F. Potter, Kenneth F. Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Bed bugs must avoid detection when finding hosts and returning to hidden harborages. Their stealthy habits include foraging when hosts are asleep. Characteristics of spontaneous locomotor activity rhythm of bed bugs with different feeding histories were studied. In the absence of host stimuli, adults and nymphs were much more active in the dark than in the light. The onset of activity in the scotophase commenced soon after lights-off. The free-running period (τ) for all stages was longer in continuous darkness (DD) than in continuous light (LL). The lengthening of τ in DD is an exception for the circadian rule that predicts the opposite in nocturnal animals. Activity in all stages was entrained to reverse L:D regimes within four cycles. Short-term starved adults moved more frequently than recently fed adults. While bed bugs can survive for a year or more without a blood meal, we observed a reduction in activity in insects held for five weeks without food. We suggest that bed bugs make a transition to host-stimulus dependent searching when host presence is not predictable. Such a strategy would enable bed bugs to maximize reproduction when resources are abundant and save energy when resources are scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1516-1522
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Shelby Stamper and Sarah Sams for their technical support. A.R. was supported by an Urban Entomology Research Fellowship from the University of Kentucky, Department of Entomology . This research was supported by the Kentucky Pest Management Association and the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station .


  • Circadian rhythms
  • Free-running periods
  • Locomotor activity
  • Movement
  • Periodicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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