Urban Bedbug Onslaught Is A Curse On Dense Living, Recycling, & Energy Efficiency


Bedbug. Image credit:wikipedia

Bedbugs are are becoming quite the urban plague again, resurgent and causing much misery in US cities after decades of being a relatively rare problem. Some methods of being rid of bed bugs, these days, are pretty awful from an environmental standpoint: like cooking an entire apartment building to bake them out, repeatedly washing all cloths and linens in hot water, and paying for multiple (often ineffective) pesticide applications. It gets worse.The ultimate response: self-exile
Throwing it all away and moving to the burbs to start over is the ultimate anti-green, anti-bedbug action. One person cited in a Baltimore Sun article on this subject, for example, described resorting to abandoning most personal possessions and moving into an un-infested, detached single-family residence.

Surviving the bedbug insurgency.
Avoiding hotels and visitors from the city to follow? From the same source, comes this shortened list of 'un-green' ways to survive the insurgency.

As cited in the Sun, here are some of the things you should consider doing when faced down by these insects.


  • Don't take furniture or appliances from street corners or alleys

  • Use caution when buying used furniture

  • Vacuum mattresses, carpets, floors and small crevices; encase vacuum bag in plastic and quickly dispose of it in an outside garbage can

  • Seal mattresses and box springs in impermeable plastic or vinyl cases [is vinyl not a plastic?]

  • Wash and dry all clothing and linens in high heat, or have it dry cleaned

  • Destroy or post warnings on discarded furniture or other items


Environmentalists to Blame for DDT Ban, Bed Bugs Infestation? Really?
Jeff covered the possibility of USEPA allowing use of previously-banned pesticides to control bedbugs . It really might become necessary.

I've seen several hints or outright claims, lately, that the banning of DDT use in the US was somehow responsible for the recent return of the bed bug menace of old. The Baltimore Sun article, too, seems to infer this.

DDT nearly wiped the bugs out in the United States. But that pesticide and others have since been banned for health reasons, and the commercial products used to kill roaches and ants have little effect on the bloodsuckers.
This is misleading, as written. DDT being banned had nothing to do with the the current upswing in bedbug populations.

DDT was banned almost 25 years before bedbugs became resurgent.
DDT use was phased out for general use in the USA on December 31, 1972. It is still in use in many other nations. Including those where bedbugs are a problem.

The banning of DDT from general use in the USA had very little to do with human health, by the way. There were unclear indications at the time of the ban that DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, could potentially be a cancer promoter (not a cause of cancerous cells being created per se, but promoting existing cancer cell growth); but that was not the major rationale for the banning of DDT. It made bald eagles almost go extinct, remember?

So, unless you are a reporter without internet access or work for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that US exterminators have not used DDT for 38 years ought to take this scapegoating of environmentalists thing off the page. Note: bedbug infestations are a relatively recent problem. The renewed US urban infestations began in approximately 1995.

For perspective, from Bed-Bugs.org:

Bed bugs who feed regularly have a lifespan of ten months, while those without adequate feeding can live a little more than a year...There are 5 nymphal stages for bed bugs to reach maturity, which usually takes about 32-48 days. Adult bed bugs can survive for up to seven months without blood and have been known to live in empty buildings for up to one year.
The itch to scapegoat.
Perhaps it is just more convenient to tilt at politically anonymous "environmentalists" instead of grappling with more contemporary and politically dangerous factors such as sloppy housekeeping and overcrowding and immigration and vagrancy and insect evolution.

I don't know what's most to blame. It's probably multiple factors anyway. But, this tendency to offer that DDT was banned almost 40 year ago reminds me of those who claim climate scientists are doing their research and reporting the risks of climate change just so they can get more government grant money. Unfortunately, scapegoating won't make the bedbugs stop biting.

Update:
It would be fun to hear from you all about bedbug treatments you heard about from the old days or things that worked for you.

Here's one moldy oldy that is not a goody to get the ball rolling. It is probably illegal, and for good reason, to use use sulfur candles in multiple unit dwellings. The antique sulfur candle was a composite of wax and sulfur that was lit while floating in a container inside a dish of water, kills all pests with sulfur dioxide. Problem is that it'll kill humans who enter the building before it has dissipated. And it is horrible for air quality.

Tags: Insects