No, bed bugs do not play dead at all. If you see a bed bug that is not moving and appears dead, it is most probably dead.
This assumption probably arises from instances where the homeowner thinks that all bed bugs have been eradicated, only for a reinfestation to occur weeks after. Maybe they think the bed bugs only played dead when sprayed with pesticide. But that is not the case as there is no evidence of bed bugs playing dead.
Do bed bugs have a defense mechanism?
No, bed bugs do not have a defense mechanism. Some insects have the ability to secrete an odor when they feel threatened. The secretions get all over their body thus making them unappetizing to predators.
Bed bugs do not have this special gland that other insects do. Bed bugs cannot release these odors. The gland responsible for it is in the insect’s abdomen, but because bed bugs are designed to fill its entire body with blood, they have evolved to prioritize space for blood rather than the gland for defense.
Some bugs are also poisonous when eaten by their predators. This is evident in insects that have bright colors.
Bed bugs are not poisonous when eaten. Their predators can eat plenty of bed bugs with no repercussions.
Bed bugs also do not have any physical advantages to help fend off predators. They have neither claws or fangs.
The bed bug’s only means of survival when around predators is to run away, or better yet, refrain from leaving their hideaway unless they are sure there are no predators present.
Do bed bugs play dead?
No, bed bugs do not play dead. There is no existing study that suggests that that is even a possibility.
A reason as to why people think bed bugs play dead is after spraying them, despite plenty getting killed, there will still be bed bugs that are alive. This is because pesticide can take some time before it kills some bed bugs.
Another reason why people believe bed bugs play dead is because you were probably convinced that all bed bugs were killed but then they start appearing a few weeks after, leading you to believe that those bed bugs simply pretended to die. The more probable explanation is that you were not able to kill all the bed bugs in your house. The ones hidden well survived the treatment and were able to restart the infestation
Do bed bugs play dead after getting sprayed with pesticide?
No, bed bugs do not play dead after getting sprayed with pesticide. In fact, they become more active and skittish when they sense the pesticide. This is because of their survival instinct. If they know that something is out of the ordinary, they will run away and hide.
Pesticides will not kill bed bugs immediately, sometimes it takes weeks for it to kill all of the bed bugs.
Why do bed bugs not play dead?
Bed bugs, simply, have not evolved to play dead. Their ancestors are bat bugs. These insects lived in caves and fed on the blood of bats. If bat bugs learned the habit of playing dead, they would lose their grip on the bat and fall to the cave floor. They would have a difficult time climbing back to the cave ceiling.
Frankly speaking, bed bugs do not have anything to gain from playing dead. If they stop moving and play dead, the predator is still going to eat them, or the person is still going to squash them. Even if the person thinks the bed bug is dead, they will still vacuum or sweep the bed bug and throw it outside.
What insects do play dead?
There are other insects that have been observed to play dead. These are giant water bugs, robber flies, weevils, ladybugs, and even caterpillars. Some of these insects will become rigid and stay still, while others will go as far as dropping off from the leaf they were holding on to to sell the fact that they are dead.
How can you tell if a bed bug is dead?
The best way to tell if a bed bug is dead is by looking at its movements. A dead bug will remain completely still even if you touch it.
Live bed bugs can stay still in their hiding places, but if you touch them, they will scurry and run away. They will look for another place to hide.
Do dead bed bugs shrivel up?
Yes, that is also one of the most obvious reasons one can tell a live and a dead bed bug apart from each other.
Even if bed bugs are staying still, they will never roll on their back and stay there for extended periods of time. Live bed bugs will try to stay upright as much as possible.
Bed bugs will dry out the longer they are dead. They will curl up and shrivel because they have lost all of their moisture.
No, bed bugs do not play dead because they have not evolved to retain this habit. Bed bugs also do not have any advantage to gain if they do play dead around a threat. Predators will still eat them, while humans will still either squish them or vacuum them.
Bed bugs do not have any kind of defense mechanism at all. All they can do in the face of danger is to run away and hide.
Image: istockphoto.com / Matteo Lanciano