Bed Bugs Use Incest For Colonizing Entire Apartment Buildings

BusinessWeek.com
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Like any truly bad roommate, a single female bedbug can infest an entire apartment, a study shows.

Bed bugs inbreed without ill effects, the researchers said, so even a single mated bed bug can lead to a colony of the blood-sucking insects. Three colonized buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey suggested the invasion started with only one or two insects. Another study traced 21 infestations from Maine to Florida and found most began in a single room.

Bed bugs were almost eliminated in the U.S. 60 years ago by the pesticide DDT. International travel probably aided a resurgence in the past 30 years, said study author Coby Schal. The research was presented today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia. While their bites cause itchy allergic reactions, they don't spread disease.

"This tells us it's absolutely critical to detect bed bugs early," said Schal, an urban entomology professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, in a telephone interview. "The bed bugs were introduced once, which suggests the frequency of introductions is low. It's a rare event."

The number of infestations from the insects, which feed only on blood, has grown as much as 100-fold since 1990, said Rajeev Vaidyanathan, associate director of diseases from animals at SRI International, which is based in Menlo Park, California, in a statement.