Excerpt from PCT Magazine:
UF/IFAS Research: Typical Populations of Bed Bugs Can Cause Harmful Blood Loss in Humans
For years, bed bugs have been turning up in sometimes odd and random places, such as subways, movie theaters, dressing rooms and schools, but scientists believed that to flourish, the insects would need more frequent access to human blood meals.
Turns out they don’t.
A University of Florida study, published online last fall by the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows the blood-sucking insects can do much more than survive — they can even thrive — with far less access to human blood than previously believed.
And the news only gets creepier. The three-year study also found that it takes only about 11 weeks for one pair of bed bugs to spawn a large enough population to cause harmful blood loss in a baby, and just under 15 weeks for adult humans. Just 3,500 bed bugs feeding on a single baby or 25,000 on an adult can cause problems.
“By harmful, we mean it’s not killing you, but your body would be stressed,” said Roberto Pereira, a research associate scientist in entomology with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). “And when your body is stressed, all sorts of things can go wrong. Your blood volume would be low, your iron levels might be too low or you might become anemic.”
Pereira and Phil Koehler, a professor of entomology and UF/IFAS faculty member, fed bed bugs in 5- and 15-minute periods and once, three or seven times per week, to see how the populations fared under different feeding conditions. Andrew Taylor, a former UF entomology undergraduate, and Margie Lehnert, a former entomology graduate student, assisted with the project.
Under the researchers’ bed bug-feeding regimens, Koehler said, the populations grew under all conditions — even those bed bugs fed the least often and for the shortest duration (although that group’s numbers grew slowly).
“Basically what we found is that they can live on a diet of weekly snacks,” Pereira said.
The researchers also were surprised to discover that if not controlled, populations of bed bugs large enough to cause humans harm could grow four times more quickly than previously thought, in just an 11- to 15-week span.
Koehler and Pereira’s study also found that unless pest control efforts against bed bugs can kill at least 80 percent of a given population, they are not likely to have much success.
“One pair of bed bugs can become 35,000 in just 10 weeks if not controlled,” Koehler said. “It’s really a very difficult problem for people.” — Mickie Anderson, University of Florida
Photo courtesy of Louis N. Sorkin, B.C.E., Entsult Associates, Inc