The bed bug epidemic is a strange and mysterious occurrence. Bed bugs have seen a huge resurgence worldwide, and researchers have yet to determine why. We thought we had it bad enough with the bed bugs we knew. Now, there is a whole other beast to worry about: tropical bed bugs are back.
There are two species of bed bugs that feed on humans. The first is called the common bed bug, or Cimex lectularius. It gets that name because it’s everywhere: common bed bugs can be found in all 50 states, and are widespread throughout the rest of the world. The tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus, is much less common. Tropical bed bugs have only been found in subtropic or tropic regions such as Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore.
Until recently, the common bed bug was thought to be the only species of bed bug found in the US. It is also subsequently the only species that has been widely studied. Now all of that may change with the discovery of the tropical bed bug, a pest thought long gone from the states.
The new case of tropical bed bugs was discovered in a home on Merritt Island, Florida. Florida is one of a few southern states that is believed to have the ideal conditions for tropical bed bugs to flourish. However, an infestation hasn’t been reported in over 60 years until now.
On the surface, tropical bed bugs are almost identical to the common bed bugs that we know and hate. Like common bed bugs, tropical bed bugs are flat, oval-shaped critters with six legs, short antennae, and small, vestigal wing pads. Where they differ in appearance is their neck segment, called a “pronotum”. While the common bed bug has a U-shaped pronotum that flares out on either side, the tropical bed bug’s pronotum is narrower and lacks those wing-like extensions.
Researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are asking the public to send samples of suspected tropical bed bugs. For more on this story, and on submitting samples, check out the UF/IFAS’s press release.