Feeling Itchy? Bed Bugs are Making a Come Back!
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
There was a time not too long ago when bed bugs were nearly eradicated. Most of us didn't grow up even hearing about bed bugs besides in old wives' tails or mythical stories about why we need to vacuum and wash our bedding regularly. However, recently, there has been a massive resurgence of these nasty little infestations. In many major travel hubs and large cities where housing turns over quickly, bed bugs are more than just a household pest, they are downright taking over. What happened to cause this? What can we do to squelch the problem as a country? And what can you do to make sure that your personal home or business is fortified against the itchy parasite?
Bed Bug History and Facts
Bed bugs are super yucky, sneaky, and parasitic in nature. They eat human blood for nourishment and can hide themselves in beds, couches, clothing, other furniture and even small cracks in walls and flooring. Although the bug itself is not poisonous or disease-spreading and the bite is painless (due to the anesthetic in their salivary gland), the critter injects saliva into the victim and this can cause an itchy reaction that displays itself as a bump or rash.
They can exist for months without food and are flat and small in size, making them quite formidable and while the life cycle is just under a year, a female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs in this time in spurts of fifty at a time. A single bedbug can bite and feed multiple times in a night and they often stay attached and eating for thirty minutes or until gorged.
Although bed bugs came to the United States reportedly as far back as the Mayflower, the urbanization of cities in the early 1900s posed an increased availability for food and living spaces for the pests. Hotels and apartments were especially favorite areas for bed bugs as the proximity to additional hosts and homes is quite close, making it easy for them to aggregate or colonize. However, there was no known way to eradicate an infestation at this time and they became an annoying but unchangeable part of life for many even with the help of herbal and natural "remedies" that could help deter the bites.
It wasn't until 1939 when the first effective pesticide was introduced by a Swiss chemist named Paul Hermann Muler. DDT was extremely toxic to bed bugs and was way more effective than past solutions as it stuck to surfaces and lasted for months making it impossible for the bugs to dodge or avoid as they waited for the coast to clear. The sensitivity to DDT began subsiding though as the parasite grew more resistant to its effect and, by the time the chemical was banned, there was already a pretty solid decrease in the success of using DDT to treat bed bug infestations.
Some people like to think that the banning of DDT in the 1970s was the cause of the bed bug resurgence but its a bit more complicated than that. Even though DDT was originally a good treatment fro bed bug infestations, the bugs had already started evolving to turn off the neuro-channels responsible for DDT toxicity long before the product was banned for environmental reasons. The increase of air travel was probably a more likely culprit as the smaller groups of mutated, pesticide-resistant bugs were able to travel from state to state in luggage and on planes. This communication, so to speak, between communities of people helped foster the growth of the resistant populations and created a "super bug" with which we now contend. Although there are other theories out there (including that the bugs mutated in Africa from the use of pyrethroid-impregnated mosquito nets and immigrated from there) the air travel option seems to be the most likely cause of the comeback.
What to do?
Nowadays, there is no known all-successful bed bug treatment but heat treatments do seem to be the most effective method and the bugs have not been able to build a tolerance to this. Heat treating all your laundry, bedding, bedding covers, etc may be helpful in controlling an infestation but it's difficult to tell because someone with low allergic response may not even know that they're being bitten and the bugs can live on without notice. It can often be very difficult to locate or pinpoint the exact area where the infestation is taking place.
The best option for completely eradicating an infestation seems to be a combination of self-treatment, detection, and specific treatment with proper pesticides. A local exterminator can often treat requested beds and furniture to eradicate infestations but problems can arise in identifying the exact source of the aggregations. Apartments and hotels are very risky because of the shared walls and living spaces so, if you are staying in one of these, some precautions can be taken to help keep infestations at bay. Laundering bedding and clothing regularly, storing luggage off the ground and away from the bed, checking headboards and wall cracks for signs of visible bugs, larvae, or eggs, and regular vacuuming helps but if you are waking up with bites or seeing bugs its important to act right away.
And this is where K9 Detection Services come in! Enlisting the help of Bed Bug Detection K9 is a great way to identify which area(s) are the source of the infestation so that you are not over (or under) treating the residence. A K9 can smell a single live bed bug and is trained to know the difference between past infestations (dead bugs, dust, dried larvae, and blood stains) and a live bug. It's amazing to see these dogs work and they have a real zest for the job! Many are trained to work for a toy and so the whole "job" is merely a game of hide and seek for one of the world's best sniffers! When a K9 accurately alerts on the infested area, an outside extermination service can easily treat the space effectively.
Let us know if you're looking for a good bed bug detection dog and we can send you in the right direction!