The Fastest Growing Pest Control Emergency
Almost Wiped Out
“Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” For most adults today, this phrase was commonly used throughout our childhood, but it didn’t hold a lot of meaning at the time. In fact, you may have even wondered if bed bugs even existed as they were rarely talked about. This was because, they actually nearly didn’t exist within the developed world.
Due to the use of an extremely powerful pesticide known as Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloro-Ethane (DDT), bed bugs were nearly wiped out in the United States by the beginning of the 1950’s. The effectivity of DDT was heightened by its ability to not only kill adult bed bugs, but destroy their eggs as well, thereby wiping out an entire population of bed bugs in only 1-2 treatments. However, DDT was soon eradicated itself.
In 1972, the use of DDT was banned due to its extremely malignant effects on the environment and to anyone who was exposed to the potent, synthetic chemical. The list of negative side effects from DDT exposure is long, but most notably people suffered from breast cancer, male infertility, miscarriages, liver damage, developmental disabilities in children and extensive nervous system damage. As such, the chemical was quickly removed from circulation… but this allowed the remaining bed bugs to once again begin growing their numbers.
Nowadays, one fifth of Americans either knows someone who has dealt with bedbugs or has had a bedbug invasion in their own home – making it the most prevalent spreading infestation in the United States today.
Kings of Hide and Seek
Bed bugs are roughly the size of an apple seed and can be as thin as a sheet of paper, making them experts at hiding. Their name is a bit of a misnomer as these arachnids can be found a multitude of places – not just inside beds. They can be found:
- In couches
- In chairs
- On curtains
- Under peeling paint
- Squeezed between floorboards
- Inside electrical outlets
- Behind picture frames
- In folded clothing
- And more…
They are also very partial to hiding in bags such as suitcases, purses and backpacks, which is how they manage to travel from one location to another. They cannot fly, nor can they jump, they also can only travel roughly 100 feet in one night, so hitchhiking is their preferred mode of transportation.
Diapause is the insect version of hibernation. Similar to bears and other hibernating creatures, bed bugs will enter a state of extraordinarily deep sleep in which its metabolic processes slow to a stop. At this time, the bug survives off of stored energy which can last up to a year for the average bed bug. Eventually, the little bloodsucker will awaken when its energy stores run out or from other external catalysts that pull it out of diapause.
Similar to DDT, intense heat will kill both adult bed bugs and their eggs. This treatment is also ecofriendly and safe, which is why it has quickly become the leading defense against bed bugs today. The infected area must be heated to at least 115°F (46°C). Once the area has reached this heightened temperature, it must be maintained for roughly 10 minutes, which is ample time for the little creepy crawlers to expire from exposure to the heat.
The Good News
While they’re creepy and crawly and keep you up at night as they feast on your blood, leaving behind itchy, red bite marks… there is one huge positive when it comes to bed bugs:
They do not transmit diseases!
Most blood feeding insects including mosquitos, fleas, and ticks, carry and transmit dangerous diseases from person to person. One may think that, since bedbugs hitchhike from place to place, they’re bringing terrible diseases with them as they travel. Oddly enough, the digestive systems of bed bugs consume and destroy most human blood borne diseases within an hour or so, and, as bed bugs feed only once within the span of several days, it becomes virtually impossible for anything to be transmitted from person to person.
Green, H. (2016) 7 Things You Should Know About Bed Bugs, YouTube. SciShow. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFk0t9DHu1Q