Florida Facing Invasion of Tropical Bed Bugs Not Seen Since World War II

Article repurposed from https://weather.com/news/news/tropical-bedbugs-return-to-florida-after-60-years

VIDEO

The United States is facing an invasion threat that the country hasn’t seen since World War II.

Researchers in Florida have discovered a case of rare tropical bed bugs, which are larger and more prolific breeders than common bed bugs, on Merritt Island near the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary, Florida Today reports.

Common female bed bugs can lay 200 eggs; tropicals lay 500, Ivan Starkey of Fort Myers Pest Control told NBC-2.

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

Though common bed bugs are, well, common in Florida and other states across the country, there hasn’t been a confirmed case of the tropical variety in Florida since the 1940s. Experts fear this new case may be the frontline of a resurgence in population.

"I personally believe that in Florida, we have all of the right conditions that could potentially help spread tropical bed bugs,” University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences doctoral student Brittany Campbell, who coauthored a recent journal article about the discovery, said in a press release. “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.”

Biologically, the release says, tropical bed bugs aren’t that much different from common bed bugs. They feed on human blood and bites can cause itchy, blistery reactions.

“They are stimulated when we go to bed at night. We release a pheromone, and that pheromone attracts them,” Barry Inman, Brevard County Health Department epidemiologist, told WESH. “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.”

Researchers don’t know where the new infestation originated from, but suspect that Port Canaveral may be ground zero.

"A lot of pests that do get into Florida, a lot of them do pop up in ports," Campbell told Florida Today.

Campbell is asking people who think they may have an infestation of tropical be bugs to capture specimens and send them to her and her colleagues for analysis.

“I have been asking people to send bed bug samples to our laboratory so that I can properly identify the species,” she said. “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.”

Campbell recommends people place specimens into a small plastic container or sealed into a plastic bag, folded over multiple times to help cushion the insects from being smashed.

They can then send them directly to Campbell at the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department; University of Florida; 1881 Natural Area Drive, Gainesville, Florida, 32611 or to the identification lab at UF (http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/insectid/).

Campbell hopes that further study will help researchers figure out how to deal with what could be a growing pest problem.

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