New Bed Bug Invasion Feared in Florida and Other States

▪ Officials believe the bugs may have arrived through Port Canaveral
▪ This bug type hasn't been seen in the United States since WW2
▪ Bugs are attracted to human pheromones and attack at night

Credit: Flickr / Gilles San Martin / Creative Commons

Brevard County, Florida — A rare variety of bed bug not seen in the U.S. since World War 2 has again invaded the United States.

On November 14, 2016, it was reported that Florida scientists have observed the bugs on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, halfway between Jacksonville and Miami.

The newly discovered insects — called “tropical bed bugs” — are considered to be a particularly serious threat because they breed rapidly.

Ivan Starkey of Fort Myers Pest Control asserts that while a common female bed bug might lay 200 eggs, a tropical bed bug will lay 500.

Starkey says,

“They multiply at a faster rate, they lay more eggs than are common bed bugs that we are dealing with today.”

Nevertheless, tropical bed bugs share many characteristics with common bed bugs. Both varieties are nocturnal, tend to infest bedding material or mattresses, and feed on human blood.

Credit: Flickr / Louento.pix / Creative Commons

Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, is known to exist in Florida and most other states across the country. Cimex hemipterus, however, the tropical variety, has not been seen in Florida since the 1940s.

Scientists worry that the presence of the tropical bugs might be the vanguard of a coming invasion.

Brittany Campbell is a doctoral student at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and she recently co-wrote an article about the new presence of the tropical insects. She believes,

“As long as you have people traveling and moving bed bugs around, there is a real potential for this species to spread and establish in homes and other dwellings.”

Florida is particularly vulnerable to a possible tropical bedbug infestation, she says, explaining,

“I personally believe that in Florida, we have all of the right conditions that could potentially help spread tropical bed bugs.”

Barry Inman, Brevard County Health Department epidemiologist, describes the bed bugs’ tendency to attack sleeping humans this way:

“They are stimulated when we go to bed at night. We release a pheromone, and that pheromone attracts them.”

He continues,

“You get a female who gets a blood meal from someone, she can lay thousands of eggs and may not need another blood meal for some time–weeks and weeks.”

This may be why an infestation is so difficult to eradicate.

Scientists are puzzled about the source of the latest invasion, but one theory, shared by Campbell, is that they have arrived via Port Canaveral, a cruise, cargo, and naval port in Brevard County.

Port Canaveral is a major entry port for cruise, cargo, and naval ships. Credit: Flickr / CL Photographs / Creative Commons

She has requested that those with infestations send specimens to her at the University of Florida for analysis.

“I have been asking people to send bed bug samples to our laboratory so that I can properly identify the species,” she confirms. “If they do have a bed bug infestation, because they are so difficult to control, I ask that people consult a pest-control company for a professional service.”

She hopes that by studying the insects, she and other scientists may discover a way to stop the further spread of the pests.

“There isn’t as much research available on tropical bed bugs as common bed bugs,” she admits. “But hypothetically they should be able to be controlled the same way as the common bed bug species because their biology/behavior are similar.”

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