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Wild Things

The weird and wonderful in the natural world

Sarah Zielinski

Wild Things


Wild Things

Now there are two bedbug species in the United States

tropical bedbug

Tropical bedbugs look a lot like common bedbugs. That may explain why no one noticed their presence in Florida until recently.

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Bedbugs give me nightmares. Really. I have dreamt of them crawling up my legs while I lie in bed. These are common bedbugs, Cimex lectularius, and after largely disappearing from our beds in the 1950s, they have reemerged in the last few decades to cause havoc in our homes, offices, hotels and even public transportation.

Now there’s a new nightmare. Or rather, another old one. It’s the tropical bedbug, C. hemipterus. Its presence has been confirmed in Florida, and the critters could spread to other southern states, says Brittany Campbell, a graduate student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who led a new study that tracked down the pests.

Tropical bedbugs can be found in a geographic band of land running between 30° N latitude and 30° S. In the last 20 years or so, they’ve been collected from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Australia, Rwanda and more. Back in 1938, some were collected in Florida. There were more reports of the species in the following years, but none since the 1940s.

Then, in 2015, researchers at the Insect Identification Laboratory at the University of Florida identified bedbugs sent to the lab from a home in Brevard County, Florida, as tropical bedbugs. To confirm the analysis, researchers went to the home and collected more samples. They were indeed tropical bedbugs, the team reports in the September Florida Entomologist.

The family thought that the bedbugs must have been transported unknowingly into the house by one of the people who lived there. But no one living in the home had traveled outside the state recently, let alone outside the country. This suggests that tropical bedbugs can be found elsewhere in Florida, the team concludes.

Additional evidence comes from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, which holds two female tropical bedbugs that, according to their label, were collected in Orange County, Florida, on June 11, 1989, from bedding. “Whether this species has been present in Florida and never disappeared, or has been reintroduced and remains in small populations, is not currently known,” the researchers write.

Why hasn’t anyone noticed? Well, people don’t usually send bedbugs to entomologists when they have an infestation, and your average victim isn’t going to notice the difference between the two species. “Both species are very similar,” Campbell says. Not only do they look alike, but they also both “feed on blood, hide in cracks and crevices and have similar lifestyles.” Plus, there’s been little research directly comparing the two species, she notes, so scientists don’t know how infestations might differ.

Just to give us all a few more nightmares, Campbell points out something else: While there’s probably no reason to worry that the creepy critters will spread as climate change warms the globe, she says that there is a potential for the species to move north “because humans provide nice conditions for bedbugs to develop.”

Animals

Old bonobos have bad eyesight — just like us

By Sarah Zielinski 2:22pm, November 8, 2016
As bonobos age, they lose their ability to see things close up, a new study suggests.
Conservation,, Animals

City dolphins get a boost from better protection and cleaner waters

By Sarah Zielinski 11:08am, November 3, 2016
Bottlenose dolphins near Adelaide, Australia, are slowly growing in number due to better environmental conditions and better protection.
Animals

With climate change, grizzly bears may hibernate less

By Sarah Zielinski 1:00pm, October 25, 2016
New research shows that food availability and weather are driving when grizzly bears enter and exit their dens for hibernation.
Animals

Painted lady butterflies’ migration may take them across the Sahara

By Sarah Zielinski 11:32am, October 12, 2016
The migratory patterns of painted lady butterflies are largely unknown. Now scientists have found evidence that some may migrate across the Sahara.
Animals,, Conservation

Nature has a dog problem

By Sarah Zielinski 11:00am, September 30, 2016
Free-roaming dogs spread disease, kill wildlife by the thousands and have even caused extinctions. But their full effect on the environment has been little studied.
Animals,, Evolution,, Conservation

Kauai’s native forest birds are headed toward extinction

By Sarah Zielinski 3:00pm, September 13, 2016
Kauai’s honeycreepers are losing their last refuges from mosquito-borne diseases that are spreading due to climate change. Some could become extinct within a decade.
Animals,, Conservation

As IUCN votes on ivory trade, elephants’ future looks bleak

By Sarah Zielinski 9:34am, September 9, 2016
As the IUCN prepares to debate an end to the ivory trade, two new reports show just how poorly Africa’s elephant species are faring.
Animals,, Evolution

Tail vibrations may have preceded evolution of rattlesnake rattle

By Sarah Zielinski 7:00am, August 31, 2016
The rattle on a rattlesnake evolved just once. A new study contends it may have come out of a common behavior — tail vibration — that snakes use to deter predators.
Animals,, Evolution

The weird mating habits of daddy longlegs

By Sarah Zielinski 11:00am, August 22, 2016
Scientists studying the sex lives of daddy longlegs are finding there’s a lot of diversity among this group of arachnids.
Animals

Lizard mom’s microbiome may protect her eggs

By Sarah Zielinski 5:19pm, August 16, 2016
Striped plateau lizard moms don’t do any parenting beyond laying eggs. But they may convey protection from pathogens with help from their microbiome.
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