Should We Battle Blood-Sucking Bed Bugs with Banned Pesticides?

Credit: Cornell University.

Itchy scratchy bed bugs are getting so bad around parts of the United States that they're becoming a plot line on TV comedies like "30 Rock" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." And some folks in the real world are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift a ban on pesticides that could fight the critters. The tiny bugs haven't been much of a problem since World War II, the Associated Press says, but they're on the rebound from New York to Chicago to Washington, in college dormitories, hotels, and rich and poor areas.

The tiny red and brown bugs live in mattresses, sofas and sheets and emerge before dawn to feed on human blood. The bugs are resistant to most pesticides in use today, while the nation continues to obsess over the Twilight series of vampire books.

The EPA is looking into the bed bug bump, and considering the use of banned chemicals to help control the insects, including good old DDT, which was banned in the 1970s after helping decimate bald eagle populations.

So what should we do to bring back freedom from bed bugs, now that the bald eagle is rebounding? Should we just start sleeping in bathtubs and restrict international travel?

In Ohio, the Department of Agriculture is seeking an emergency exemption to allow the use of the insecticide propoxur in homes. The stuff is already used in commercial buildings, on crops and in flea and tick collars for pets.

In Michigan, the government has established a bed bug workgroup.

There also are alternatives, like throwing away all of your belongings, or heating, freezing and steaming the bugs out of bedrooms, the AP reports. But treatment is generally very expensive using the current swath of permitted pesticides.

More than a dozen other states are supporting Ohio's request, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

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Tags: Insects | Pesticides