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Title: Mating and starvation modulate feeding and host-seeking responses in female bed bugs, Cimex lectularius

Reproductive fitness and survival are enhanced by adaptive behaviors that are modulated by internal physiological states and external social contexts. The common bed bug,Cimex lectularius, is an obligate hematophagous ectoparasite that requires host blood for growth, development, and reproduction. We investigated how mating, starvation and social interactions affect host-seeking, blood feeding, oviposition, and survival of female bed bugs. The percentage of females that fed and the amount of blood they ingested were greater in mated females (90–100%) than in unmated females (48–60%). Mating state also modulated the female’s orientation towards human skin odor in an olfactometer; more mated (69%) than unmated (23%) females responded to human odors. The response rate of unmated females (60%) to skin odor increased with longer starvation period, while the opposite pattern was observed in mated females (20%). Although fecundity after a single blood meal was unaffected by long or short residence and interaction with males, females subjected to frequent copulation attempts had lower survivorship and lifespan than females housed with males for only 24 h. Taken together, these results indicate that by adaptively and coordinately expressing behaviors based on the internal physiological state, females maximize their survival and reproductive fitness.

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Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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    Significance statement

    Many species of eusocial insects have colonies with multiple queens (polygyny), or queens mating with multiple males (polyandry). Both behaviors generate potentially beneficial genetic diversity in ant colonies as well as reproductive conflict. The co-occurrence of both polygyny and polyandry in a single species is only known from few ant species. Leaf-cutting ants have both multi-queen colonies and multiply mated queens, providing a well-suited system for studying the co-evolutionary dynamics between mating behavior and genetic diversity in colonies of eusocial insects. We used microsatellite markers to infer the socio-reproductive behavior in five South American leaf-cutter ant species. We found that variation in genetic diversity in colonies was directly associated with the mating frequencies of queens, but not with the number of queens in a colony. We suggest that multi-queen nesting and mating frequency evolve independently of one another, indicating that behavioral and ecological factors other than genetic diversity contribute to the evolution of complex mating behaviors in leaf-cutting ants.

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  5. Abstract

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