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University of Florida’s Brittany Campbell fights against bed bugs

While Daenerys Targaryen may have three dragons, even she would likely have nightmares after seeing Campbell’s brood of 1,000 bed bugs.

Because although we’ve all heard the children’s rhyme that goes,”Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” most of us have never seen one of these six-legged nuisances up close — and we all fear tiny bugs crawling on us while we sleep.

But, for Campbell, a University of Florida Ph.D. student in the department of entomology and nematology, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the bugs of bedtime myth are ones she reared herself.

From apartment buildings to nursing homes, Campbell has investigated bed bug infestations minor to severe. Now she’s turned her attention to the tropical version of the common pest, a species new to the U.S. and currently only found in Brevard County, Florida. In 2016, she gained media attention after making a strange public request—she asked people to send her their bed bugs.

Thanks to the overwhelming response, Campbell has recently reared the first live colony of tropical bed bugs in the U.S. — a resource she says will be important for research if the population spreads in Florida.

By conducting genetic studies and determining how to differentiate between the two species, Campbell hopes to help stop the spread of tropical bed bugs. She is also conducting several studies to evaluate novel chemical methods for controlling bed bugs, which experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s after decades of eradication in the U.S.

UF News spoke with Campbell about her work and the passion that drives her to spend her days with the source of real and imagined nightmares. For a complete Q&A with her, click here.

For more about the Department of Entomology and Nematology, click here. To learn more about the University of Florida and to apply for admission, click here.

Materials by University of Florida. Original article “Mother of Bed Bugs”. Photos and video by Lyon Duong. Interview by Stephenie Livingston. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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