There are now two distinct species of bed bugs to worry about.
A study conducted in Florida has discovered that Cimex lectularius or the common bedbug has a tropical cousin in C. hemipterus that has emerged for the first time in nearly 60 years.
Brittany Campbell, a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida, led a new study that identified the new species of insects.
“I personally believe that in Florida, we have all of the right conditions that could potentially help spread tropical bed bugs, which is the case in other southern states,” Campbell said in a statement. “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.”
Campbell said the tropical bed bugs, much like the common bed bug, feed on human blood and are likely to cause similar health problems from a severe infestation including fear, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and itchy, blistery reactions.
“I have been asking people to send bed bug samples to our laboratory so that I can properly identify the species,” Campbell 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.
“There isn’t as much research available on tropical bed bugs as common bed bugs, but hypothetically they should be able to be controlled the same way as the common bed bug species because their biology/behavior are similar.”
According to Campbell’s research, the tropical bed bugs can be found in a geographic band of land running between 30°N latitude and 30°S and has been collected from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Australia, Rwanda and other countries in the last 20 years.
Tropical bed bugs were first discovered in 1938 but had not been identified since the 1940’s before 2015 when researchers at the Insect Identification Laboratory at the University of Florida identified tropical bed bugs that were collected from a home in Brevard County.
The researchers were then able to go to the home and collect more samples, which confirmed that they were in fact the tropical bed bugs.
Since no one in the homeowner’s family had traveled outside the country or even the state recently, the researchers concluded that the tropical bed bugs could likely be found elsewhere in the state.
Campbell also said she expects the tropical bed bug to develop quicker than the common bed bug.
“This could mean that this species would develop more quickly, possibly cause an infestation problem sooner and also could spread more rapidly,” Campbell added. “However, no studies have been conducted directly comparing both species at the same times and temperatures.
“Also, because we have so much failure with bed-bug control, it’s important to note what species you have in order to determine whether control efforts should be changed, according to species and to determine if control failures are due to the species and not the chemicals and methods used.”
For decades, chemical treatments were used by pest control professionals to keep bed bugs at bay, but the invasive insect reemerged in the late 1990’s.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, homeowners can protect their home from bed bugs by checking furniture, beds and couches for signs of infestation, using a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs, reduce clutter in the home, vacuum frequently and sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards and light sockets.
The EPA says bed bugs can be eliminated using integrated pest management or pesticides.