If you asked any exterminator 10 years ago how to treat for bed bugs you would’ve gotten stuttering replies and a whole bunch of blank stares. There were no specific chemicals on the market for this pest and even the intranet had only a scant few references that mainly referred to a pest from a long time ago.
Bed bugs for all intensive purposes were extinct in America shortly after World War II as DDT and chlorinated hydro carbon sprays were quite effective at reducing this once prominent bug to all but a footnote in American history. As a tech for over 27 years now I don’t remember a single class, reference or even one case of bed bugs until sometime around 2003. Now in 2010 there’s hardly a day that goes by without my e-mail buzzing with bed bug alerts, classes that are available or equipment manufacturers wanting me to download their brochures. Even here in my sleepy little town we’re doing bed bug jobs on a regular basis where we never would have thought we would before.
Why the sudden surge?
For the same reason bed bugs came to America in the first place is the main reason they’re making their huge come back. The old saying “sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite” wasn’t coined in the U.S. but did you know the early settlers used the saying not as the cliche it is today but as actual advice. Their beds were suspended and held together by ropes and saggy ropes allowed for more bed bugs to come out at night while tight ones might meant a few less bites. Now while these early residents had to deal with new pests they’ve never seen before in their new land, bed bugs were something that they were already familiar with. These bugs travelled with them and became a problem for Americans ever since. This pest that cannot fly, hop or even run very fast simply hides in your personal belongings and where ever you go he’ll glady set up shop. Now days with so many visitors coming in and out of America on a daily basis and our citizens traveling the world like never before, the bed bug has once again ‘hitched a ride’ and in just a few short years re-infested what was once forbidden territory.
Are there other factors?
Something curious to me is that some lay at least partial blame for the bed bugs resurgence at the feet of the ‘green movement.’ While for years it was completely responsible, reasonable and professional to treat a home with a handheld sprayer which included the spraying of baseboards, suddenly this new wave of thinkers told us that was no longer acceptable. The theory goes that since there was no residual in this favorite hiding and trafficked area the bed bugs quickly built up with no barrier there to keep them in check. Now homes that had been receiving a service all along were just as infested as those that had not. While I can’t verify this in any measurable way I can tell you that of all my companies clients we have only had one bed bug call from a current customer and the infestation was easily traced to guests who came to visit and the problem was very short lived. My trucks by the way all carry the dreaded hand held sprayers. Hmmm.
Regardless the factors involved bed bugs are sure to be around for a very long time. In fact I’ll go out on a limb here and say they’ll never be eliminated in our land again. While newer ‘non toxic’ methods are being developed all the time with limited results and our insatiable appetite for traveling the world it seems we can’t even catch up to the spread of this blood sucking bug. Since it also seems that reasonable, responsible pest control using chemicals is becoming our latest footnote of history, there will be no one standing in the way of this resurgence from becoming an epidemic. So if you ask me will bed bugs ever become extinct again? I’ll tell you my money is on the bed bug.