Do bed bugs have wings?
The answer is yes and no. While bed bugs grow vestigial wings during their adult stage, the wings look like very short pads on the top of the thorax, which are useless organs if they need one to fly. Several bugs’ vestigial wings have a much lighter in color than the rest of the body, but a common bed bug’s have the same reddish brown color as the rest of its body.
Vestigial wings serve little or no use to a number of insects, including those of female Oriental cockroaches, particular kinds of grasshoppers, and large blister beetles. Insects are the only anthropods who have wings, some might be rendered useless and some have the capability to fly.
In the case of flightless bed bugs, evolution and natural selection did them a favor. Animals develop body parts that are used to adapt to their needs and role in the environment.
Take for example the insects that have lived in caves for millions of years. They may not have eyes since they cannot see or find no need to survive in their environment through their eyes. Some kinds of flies, including those of wingless varieties, are nearly permanent parasites on warm blooded animals, such as bat flies and louse flies.
In the case of bed bugs, they do just fine without the need to fly. Their wings are pretty much in the way, and through evolution, these wings have slowly shrunk, allowing them to slip into and out of their hiding places. Looking at their stubby wing pads, one could assume that whatever ancient ancestor the bed bug has evolved from must have had wings and its uselessness in helping these parasites survive stunted the development of this body part.
Here are a few more similar cases of flightless insects and evolution’s role in their development. Some butterflies and moths live only a week or so as adults. That’s because their only job as adults is to mate and lay eggs for the continuity of their species.
Fleas and lice do not need a pair of wings since they live on top or attached to their hosts. Flies only need a pair to reach their food source, even if evidences show that they have a second pair called “halteres.”
Bed bugs need to thrive where food resources are readily available, and all they need to do is crawl. They can spot their food sources and get close proximity by just dropping from ceilings and onto their next meal.