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Bedbugs’ Rampant Incest Colonizes Entire Apartment Buildings, Study Finds

December 15th, 2011

Bedbugs’ Rampant Incest Colonizes Entire Apartment Buildings, Study Finds

By Elizabeth Lopa

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

Bedbugs inbreed without ill effects, the researchers said, so even a single female bedbug can lead to a colony of the blood-sucking insects as a result of rampant incest.

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.

“This tells us it’s absolutely critical to detect bedbugs early,” said Coby 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.”

Bedbugs 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 Schal, also a study author. 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.

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.

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