Trauma and pain accompany the mating process in bed bugs and a recent study has shown how female bugs release alarm pheromones to keep unwanted attention at bay.
The results could help reduce bed bug infestations that have increased worldwide in recent years.
Vincent Harraca, from Lund University, Sweden, worked with a team of researchers to stage encounters between males and females or nymphs.
"Mating is exclusively traumatic, with the male piercing an opening in the female and ejaculating directly into the abdominal cavity. In order to avoid this, we've found that bedbug nymphs release aldehyde pheromones that let the male know that they should look elsewhere," said Harraca.
Harraca and his colleagues saw that blocking the nymphs' scent glands with nail polish caused them to experience the same percentage of mating with sperm transfer as a normal female.
Furthermore, application of the pheromones to a male/female pair during mounting initiation caused a decrease in mating frequency due to the anti-aphrodisiac blend of aldehydes.
"Further analyses on longevity costs to nymphs as well as males who have been pierced is a high priority to fully understand the picture of traumatic insemination," Harraca said.
The study is published in the open access journal BMC Biology.