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A New Record of the Bird-Feeding Cimicid
Ornithocoris pallidus Usinger in Louisiana (Hemiptera: Cimicidae)

Chris E. Carlton and Richard N. Story

Ornithocoris pallidus Usinger

The most notorious members of the family Cimicidae are the bedbug (Cimex lectularis L.) and tropical bedbug (C. hemipterus (F.)). They were ubiquitous pests of human dwellings during historical times and still persist in some areas where densities of hosts is high and proper sanitation is lacking. Their decline as major pests during the latter half of the 20th century was partly due to improved household sanitation and pest control methods, especially the widespread use of DDT. Changes in furniture styles and housekeeping practices were also important factors in the decline of bedbugs because they eliminated harborages where populations could hide during the day (Snetsinger, 1997). Bedbugs have resurfaced as a serious urban pest problem during recent years. This is presumably the result of the ease of spreading them in luggage and an apparent high level of resistance to modern pyrethroid insecticides.

Many cimicid species occur in proximity to humans and occasionally present themselves as pests when they occur in large numbers on hosts that occupy inhabited structures. In the United States the most common culprits are the eastern bat bug (C. adjunctus Barber), the chimney swift bug (Cimexopsis nyctalis List), and the swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius Horvath). Problems arise when the hosts build nests or roost in buildings. Elimination of the host or abandonment of the area by the host may leave a population of cimicids that has been building for some time without a food source, forcing them to seek alternate hosts, including humans (Snetsinger, 1997). Unless the cimicids are correctly identified and careful consideration is given to possible sources of the infestion, they may be mistakenly presumed to be bedbugs, causing unecessary anxiety to homeowners and implementation of inappropriate control measures. Here we report on the occurrence of an uncommonly encountered species of cimicid that has come to our attention as a pest of a local apartment building.

The bird-feeding cimicid Ornithocoris pallidus Usinger was described based on specimens from Brazil collected during 1957 in nests of the blue and white swallow (Notiochelidon cyanoleuca (Vieillot)) (Usinger, 1959). Usinger (1959, 1966) also reported occurrences of this species from purple martin (Progne subis (L.) nests in Florida and from poultry houses and bird houses from several additional localities in Florida and Georgia. All records cited by Usinger from the United States were from collections made prior to 1950. We are aware of no published records of this species in the United States since Usinger's 1966 monograph.

The infestation of O. pallidus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (East Baton Rouge Parish) was first noted during July 1998 by the tenent of a multiunit apartment. The insects were entering the apartment along the baseboards of an outside-facing wall. During early September 1998 the infestation was treated and 31 females, 18 males, and 3 immatures were collected and submitted to the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum for identification. This infestation was undoubtedly associated with birds nesting around the eaves and soffits of the apartment, though no inspection was made to confirm the species involved. English sparrows (Passer domesticus), starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and pigeons (Columbia livia) are common building-nesting birds in the Baton Rouge area.

Ornithocoris pallidus may be identified easily in keys provided by Slater and Baranowski (1978) and Usinger (1966). The later includes a habitus illustration. The species may be distiguished from O. toledoi Pinto, by its relatively more narrow pronotum. In O. toledoi the pronotum is more than 1.8 times as wide as the head. In O. pallidus the pronotum is l.7 times or less as wide as the head. Ornithocoris toledoi is known from Brazil and Argentina, where it is known only from chickens (Usinger, 1966). Voucher specimens upon which this report is based are deposited in the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum at Louisiana State University.

This is apparently the first account of an infestation of O. pallidus in the United States since the early records cited by Usinger (1966), and is the first record of the species in Louisiana. Additional specimens of this species may be in collections of entomology museums, urban entomologists, and pest control operators that may provide a more complete picture of the distribution and host associations of this species in the United States.

Literature Cited

Snetsinger, R. 1957. Bed bugs and other bugs. Pp. 393-424 in A. Mallis, 1997, Handbook of Pest Control (8th Edition), Mallis Handbook and Technical Training Company.

Usinger, R. L. 1959. New species of Cimicidae (Hemiptera). Entomologist 92: 218-222.

Usinger, R. L. 1966. Monograph of Cimicidae (Hemiptera-Heteroptera). Thomas Say Foundation, Volume 7, 585 pp.

Slater, J. A., and R. M. Baranowski. 1978. How to Know the True Bugs. (Hemiptera- Heteroptera). Wm. C. Brown, Dubuque, IA. 256 pp.