Written by A O’Neill
DO BED BUGS HAVE NATURAL PREDATORS?
The resurgence of bed bugs since the 1990s has caused untold misery to many people. With their resistance to many insecticides and their ability to stay hidden and feed without being noticed, it would seem they are masters at escaping death.
But even bed bugs have some natural predators. So what eats bed bugs?
1. MASKED HUNTER
The masked hunter (Reduvius personatus) is commonly known as the “masked bed bug hunter” and belongs to the assassin bug family.
The masked hunter originated in Europe but can now also be found in the US and Canada. They will happily eat bed bugs, and luckily they don’t feed on humans but they will bite if they are mishandled or feel threatened.
The chances are you will not see them in your home as they are nocturnal and prefer to live outside, but if you do notice a large number of them, then this might indicate an insect problem as they’ve come in to feed.
The adults are noticeable as they are dark brown to black in color and about 3/4 inch in length with wings.
This bug gets its name as the masked hunter nymph uses its sticky hairs to attach household dust and lint for camouflage. So unlike the adult, the nymph is barely noticeable.
Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) are identified as the top species of ant to eat bed bugs. They also eat grease, candy, soap, and lots of other stuff really.
Pharaoh ants are not native to the US and are from the tropical regions of Africa. They only nest indoors and their nests can be difficult to locate and treat.
Other species of ant that can eat bed bugs are Argentine ants and red imported ants.
The house centipede’s (Scutigera coleoptrata) diet consists of eating bed bugs, as well as spiders, sowbugs, millipedes, and any other arthropod that is in its path.
They like damp conditions such as the sink area and basements and are usually seen in homes in the spring and summertime.
Centipedes are not interested in humans as a food source so a bite from a centipede is unlikely.
Common household cockroaches are filthy pests that you don’t want in your home even if they are known to eat a few bed bugs.
Cockroaches are active at night and tend to be found scurrying around in kitchens whereas bed bugs are found in beds.
So although cockroaches are bed bug predators, they are definitely an unwanted pest in our homes.
Thanatus flavidus is a species of spider that has been documented hunting and eating bed bugs.
It is found in Greece, Russia, and Ukraine and there has even been a petition to introduce this spider into the US to control bed bug populations. No doubt most people will not sign this!
There are also the larger spiders such as Wolf spiders, jumping spiders, and running crab spiders that kill and eat bed bugs.
Bed bugs can be seen in spider webs when the infestation is heavy and been left to grow.
6. KISSING BUGS
Kissing bugs also belong to the assassin bug family. They are also known as vampire bugs or cone nosed bugs.
Kissing bugs can be found in the southern US states, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Although these are bed bug predators, they would be more unwelcome than bed bugs.
Like bed bugs, they feed on blood by biting your face (usually around the mouth area) at night and can spread serious diseases and infections, such as Chagas disease.
ARE NATURAL ENEMIES OF BED BUGS THE ANSWER?
Although the above are natural predators of bed bugs, the majority are not what you want in your home and they would be far from effective in reducing a bed bug infestation.
Treating a bed bug infestation as soon as possible is vital, and will also help prevent some of the above insects from invading your home to feed on the bed bugs.