Effects of starvation and molting on the metabolic rate of the bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.)

Zachary C. DeVries, Stephen A. Kells, Arthur G. Appel

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26 Scopus citations


The bed bug (Cimex lectularius L.) is a common hematophagous pest in the urban environment and is capable of surviving extended periods of starvation. However, the relationship between starvation and metabolism in bed bugs is not well understood. To better understand this relationship, we measured the metabolism of all life stages for >900 h after feeding (starvation) using closed-system respirometry. Measurements were made around molting for the immature life stages, which occurs only after a blood meal. In addition, both mated and unmated adults were measured. Starvation and molting had significant effects on the metabolism of the bed bug. Mass-specific metabolic rate (VO2; mL g-1 h-1) declined in a curvilinear fashion with the period of starvation for adults and with the postmolting period for immature bed bugs (used to standardize all immature life stages). A standard curve was developed to depict the generalized pattern of metabolic decline observed in all life stages that molted. Individual metabolic comparisons among life stages that molted revealed some differences in metabolic rate between unmated males and females. In addition, the mass scaling coefficient was found to decline with starvation time (postmolting time) for all life stages that molted. In most life stages, the ratio of VCO2 to VO2 (respiratory exchange ratio) declined over time, indicating a change in metabolic substrate with starvation. Finally, daily percent loss in body mass declined in a pattern similar to that of VO2. The observed patterns in metabolic decline are evaluated in relation to the life history of bed bugs. In addition, the evolutionary development of these patterns is discussed. The metabolic pattern after feeding was also found to share several similarities with that of other ectothermic species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

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© 2014 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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