Human-facilitated metapopulation dynamics in an emerging pest species, Cimex lectularius

Toby Fountain*, Ludovic Duvaux, Gavin Horsburgh, Klaus Reinhardt, Roger K. Butlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number and demographic history of colonists can have dramatic consequences for the way in which genetic diversity is distributed and maintained in a metapopulation. The bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is a re-emerging pest species whose close association with humans has led to frequent local extinction and colonization, that is, to metapopulation dynamics. Pest control limits the lifespan of subpopulations, causing frequent local extinctions, and human-facilitated dispersal allows the colonization of empty patches. Founder events often result in drastic reductions in diversity and an increased influence of genetic drift. Coupled with restricted migration, this can lead to rapid population differentiation. We therefore predicted strong population structuring. Here, using 21 newly characterized microsatellite markers and approximate Bayesian computation (ABC), we investigate simplified versions of two classical models of metapopulation dynamics, in a coalescent framework, to estimate the number and genetic composition of founders in the common bed bug. We found very limited diversity within infestations but high degrees of structuring across the city of London, with extreme levels of genetic differentiation between infestations (FST = 0.59). ABC results suggest a common origin of all founders of a given subpopulation and that the numbers of colonists were low, implying that even a single mated female is enough to found a new infestation successfully. These patterns of colonization are close to the predictions of the propagule pool model, where all founders originate from the same parental infestation. These results show that aspects of metapopulation dynamics can be captured in simple models and provide insights that are valuable for the future targeted control of bed bug infestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1084
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • approximate Bayesian computation analysis
  • Cimex lectularius
  • genetic structure
  • metapopulation dynamics
  • microsatellites
  • pest management


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