I Wouldn’t Want to Be a Bedbug

Bedbugs lead traumatic lives.

Yeah, I know, that goes without saying. Bedbugs are vile creatures that make my flesh crawl just thinking about them. I tend to be very much against interacting with creatures that want to feed upon me in any way.

I wouldn’t want to have to actively feed on a living thing in order to survive. (Let’s leave the vegetarian debate out of this. It gets complicated. If I had to suck on a live cow to have a steak, I’d definitely think twice. And then there’s the breastfeeding issue, proving that many of us have been parasites at one point or another… oh, my head hurts.)

I’m not a proponent of reincarnation, so I suspect the odds of me living the bedbug life are rather slim. But you never know. The reason bedbugs are at the top of my lives-to-be-avoided list boils down to one thing above all others: traumatic insemination.

In simple terms, the male grabs a female and pierces her through the wall of her abdomen and injects the sperm that way. This causes a lot of down time in the female while she heals from essentially being stabbed in the gut. Infections can occur. Her lifespan is shortened. She loses blood. In some cases she has an allergic reaction and dies.

Nice, huh? And she can be attacked like this by multiple males in a season. Some types of female bedbugs are passive during this trauma. Other types fight back vigorously. But given how many bedbugs are still in the world, it seems the males prevail.

And the crazy thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The female bedbug has a genital tract. Unfortunately, it’s only used for laying fertilized eggs.

And bedbugs aren’t the only creatures that employ traumatic insemination. I also wouldn’t want to be a nematode, a thorny-headed worm, a twisted-winged parasite, a fruit fly, a sea slug, or a type of spider that is aptly named the Harpactea Sadistica.

And omigod, then we have the Turbellaria, or the free living flatworm, which engages in “penis fencing”. These worms are hermaphrodites, and when two decide to mate they engage in a fierce battle with their penises. Whoever gets pierced first has to bear the energy cost of reproduction.

And then there’s the water beetle of the genus Acilius. These guys are brutal. They will suffocate a female underwater until she’s too exhausted to fight back. And this process can last up to six hours, with very few breathing breaks. Horrific.

And I’ve personally seen Muscovy ducks mate, where the male forces the female’s head underwater while she frantically struggles. I wanted to wade into that pond and beat that male senseless. It was very upsetting to watch.

So the next time a guy jokes about male praying mantises getting their heads bitten off, or what some female spiders do, direct them to this blog post. Nature can be brutal on both sides. But I find it interesting that we hear more about the brutal females than the brutal males.

Note the crack in the female’s abdomen on the picture to the right.

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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

4 thoughts on “I Wouldn’t Want to Be a Bedbug”

  1. We tend to paint nature with a passive brush because the reality, that life is a merciless, painfully violent process (especially for women), is unbearable. The fact that we’re able to overlook most of it, and enjoy the beauty it camouflages itself in, is life’s survival mechanisms. Like making women forget the intensity of pain experienced in childbirth so they’ll be more likely to do it again. Humans think we’re above animals because we put up such a fine display of civilized behaviors. Well, as long as we’re well fed, safe and comfortable. Take away food and water, turn up the heat or throw in a pandemic, and civility fades away. Look how people are behaving just over mask wearing because they’re uncomfortable. As climate change continues to dwindle resources and safe habitats, the beauty will be hard to see with more humans emulating bedbug behaviors. Like feeding off the vulnerable and using violence to control women for reproductive gains. Gee! Thanks Barb, that turned dark quickly. Have to go watch a magical Disney film now to reset my positivity. 🧙‍♂️ 🦄 🙂

  2. Well, there goes my appetite for breakfast…
    I wonder if the behavior of the ducks might be a side effect of domestication, akin to the famed dimness of turkeys. It sounds counterproductive to kill the female before the eggs you have fertilized are even viable, and I think I read that not all ducks do this.
    As for insects, I don’t know if they have what could be called consciousness, given their anatomy; might be close to the Cartesian “clockwork meat”.
    There are a couple of reasons why the ducks and the mantises might get spoken of differently. One is that the ducks sound a little more normal to those who think females are passive, helpless, etc. and so exceptions will stand out. The other is that up till recent decades there wasn’t a lot of info easily found about a lot of animals except in university libraries and so on. The sexual revolution unleashed a lot of curiosity that might have always been there but vague, and people could get their hands on a whole bunch of new books explaining to the layperson how the rest of the animal kingdom gets it on. I’m not sure that overall scientific literacy has increased that much, especially among antivaxers and so on, but now everyone knows just how gross some biology is.
    it’d be interesting to see if there’s any relation tween this and the rise of the transhumanist/Extropian community, who want to be shed of bodies whose heritage and sometimes performance is so mismatched to our souls. [Just what sort of epiphenomenon the soul is, and whether it could be moved to a technological device, I won’t go into here.]
    Now can we talk about something *nice*?

    1. You always add so much to the conversation, Angi! Thanks. And the next post will be nice, but the one after that, not so much. The one after that will be kind of neutral, albeit medically gross. By now you should know I’m a bit of a mixed bag.
      Have a nice day!

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