Bed bugs feed on the blood of their human hosts. That taste for blood probably tops the list of reasons people find bed bugs so repulsive. But if bed bugs feed exclusively on human blood, do they develop preferences for specific blood types? In other words, is a bed bug more likely to choose one host over another solely due to that person’s blood type?
Bed Bugs and Body Heat
We know that bed bugs are attracted to body heat, and that certain blood types generate more heat than others. For example, research suggests that people with type ‘O’ blood tend to generate higher levels of body heat. Naturally, this is greatly impacted by any recent activity the person has engaged in. Blood heat can rise due to a variety of factors including exercise, alcohol intake, stress, and illness.
But could it be more than just an elevated blood heat that bed bugs are finding so attractive? Is it possible bed bugs are actually drawn to specific blood types, and that they prefer to feed on one blood type more than another? It’s a fair question, but the answer might be just a wee bit complicated.
Blood Types and Bed Bugs
As we all know there are different blood types. These include A (+/-, B (+/-), AB (+/-), AB (+/-) and type O. Recently, there has been an interest in determining if bed bugs are attracted to certain blood types, and if they will choose one host over another according to their blood type. So far there is no reliable research to support the notion that bed bugs choose their victims according to blood type.
That being said, recent studies have shown that bed bugs do have a preference for certain hosts. Rather, it has been show that bed bugs may actively dislike certain hosts and will refrain from feeding on them. For example, researchers have noted that bed bugs don’t like to feed on blood that has been contaminated with alcohol, and they will avoid feeding on hosts who have been drinking heavily. *
*This is not meant to suggest that increasing one’s alcohol usage should be used as a technique to ward off bed bugs. But the knowledge gained by these studies informs new techniques for controlling and eliminating bed bugs. *
Do Bed Bugs Develop a Preference for Certain Blood Types?
Although research on blood types and bed bugs is limited there are some studies that do suggests that these pests can develop a preference for certain blood groups. These preferences, however, are not innate. They appear to develop over time. So, for example, if a bed bug has been regularly feeding on a host with type AB+ they will develop a taste for that blood group. Given a choice the bed bug will choose an AB+ host over a victim with a different blood type. However, if an AB+ host is not easily available that same bed bug will happily feed on an alternative host regardless of their blood group.
This seems to offer an answer to the question of why some people appear to suffer a greater number of bed bugs bites than others in the same household. The bed bugs have developed a taste for their blood type and are taking advantage of the easy access to preferred host.
Blood Groups and Pheromones
There is some evidence that bed bugs are attracted to certain blood types. This is thought to be caused by the effect certain blood types can have on the natural scent or pheromones that all humans emit. There are ample examples of this phenomenon in the natural world. For example, mosquitos have been shown to favor type O blood and will generally attack people with that blood group more than those with type A or B blood.
This suggests that a person’s blood type could make a difference when they’re sharing close quarters with others, such as in hospitals, dormitories or military barracks. With little need to travel to find a suitable victim a bed bug may choose a host according to their scent as it is informed by their blood type.
How Bed Bugs Choose their Victims
Several factors affect the way a bed bug chooses its victims. We already know that these parasites are attracted to body heat and carbon dioxide, which explains their preference for hiding in bedsprings, mattresses, couches and easy chairs. Bed bugs tend to gravitate towards places where humans rest for extended periods of time.
Whether or not bed bugs are attracted to specific blood groups is yet to be proven. Early research into the topic does suggest that there may be a connection between blood types and higher bite impact. But the research is still in its early stages, and it is far to soon to draw any definite conclusions.
Until we learn more, we must all continue to be vigilant in protecting ourselves from potential bed bug infestations. If you suspect you have a growing bed bug problem in your home or workplace now is the time to contact a professional bed bug inspection and removal service. The sooner you act the sooner you can eliminate your bed bug problems once and for all.