Bed bugs in the news

Bed bugs feed at night on people then retreat to cracks and crevices around the bedroom during the day.

Bed bugs feed on people at night, then retreat to cracks and crevices on the bed and around the bedroom to hide (and digest) during the day.

In case you’ve not been paying attention, bed bugs are back.  The tiny insect that your grandmother knew too well seemed to have disappeared for a couple of generations (in the U.S. at least) due to some highly effective pesticide use.  But now bed bugs are back with a vengeance.

The exact cause for this resurgence is not clear, but increased international travel and immigration are the two most likely explanations.  A growing resistance to the most commonly used pesticides is also likely a reason for the unwelcome return.

Two articles recently appeared in the newspapers which save me the time of explaining more about the return of the bed bug.  One appeared in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News (front page, no less!) by Christina Rosales.  I was interviewed for that story and got quoted calling bed bugs “creepy”.  The second article appeared in the August 7 Op-Ed page of the New York Times.  The editorial was written by Dr. May Berenbaum, Professor and head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois.  Dr. Berenbaum is one of those rare individuals in science who is not only an impressive scientist, but also someone who speaks well to non-scientists and is humorous to boot.

“We reserve a special kind of enmity for bedbugs because, though humans generally do not like being anywhere other than at the pinnacle of a food chain, there is a particular horror associated with being consumed while relatively helpless, asleep in what should be the security of one’s own bed (or chair or couch). With bedbugs, it’s personal — unlike cockroaches, ants, silverfish and other vermin that are attracted to our possessions, bedbugs are after us. And they’re remarkably adept at circumventing our defenses: They not only attack while we sleep, but they also inject anesthetics, so as not to awaken us, and anticoagulants, so that in every 10-minute feeding they can suck in two to three times their weight in clot-free blood.”

If you’re not too squeamish, both these articles will bring you up to speed on bed bugs–information you can impress your friends and neighbors with around the pool this summer.

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