Some bedbugs are better climbers than others, and the bloodsuckers’ climbing prowess has practical implications.
To detect and monitor bedbugs, people use an array of strategies including do-it-yourself setups and dogs. Pitfall traps, which rely on smooth inner walls to keep the critters from escaping, are highly effective for detecting and monitoring an infestation. The traps are sold around the world, but they have been tested only with common bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) — the most common species in the United States.
As it turns out, tropical bedbugs (C. hemipterus) can easily scale the walls of pitfall traps, Chow-Yang Lee, an entomologist at Malaysia’s University of Science, and colleagues found in lab tests. While 24 to 76 percent of tropical bedbug strains escaped traps, only 2 or fewer percent of common strains made it out. In measurements of vertical frictional force, tropical bedbugs also came out on top. Further investigation revealed extra hairs on the tibial pads of tropical bugs’ feet. These may give their legs a better grip on trap walls, the researchers propose in the March 15 edition of the Journal of Economic Entomology.
Tropical bedbugs live in some regions of Africa, Australia, Japan, China and Taiwan — and have recently surfaced in Florida.