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Bed Bugs Are Back

 

By James Donahue

May 2005

 

That old saying before going to sleep: “Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” may seem humorous to contemporary children, but when I was a child we knew very well what it meant.

 

While we never suffered from the nightly bites of bugs in our beds, I had friends in the neighborhood, who came from large and relatively poor families, that did. We never stayed overnight in their homes for fear of bringing a few unfriendly hosts home with us.

 

When we traveled in those days, and had to stay overnight somewhere along the road, we attempted to make sure the rooms were clean and free of cockroaches and bed bugs. I distinctly remember the night we turned on a light in one motel in the south and seeing roaches scampering from all over the walls. We checked out and got our money back.

 

The advent of pesticides and anti-pest services quickly brought an end to this nuisance in most restaurants and hotels, at least in the U.S., and we haven’t heard of homes being infested with bed bugs for many years.

 

But now they are back, a Reuters News Service report said. First invading the hotels throughout Europe, the bugs have hitched rides in suitcases and clothing on airliners across the Atlantic to the United States. It was only a matter of time.

 

The hotel industry is quietly reeling under this new problem. There is little being said in the media about it for fear of frightening summer travelers off. But the bugs are here, and they are waiting to hide in your suitcase for a ride into your homes.

 

Entomologists say they don’t know for sure what caused the new surge in bed bugs. It is suspected that the shift from powerful pesticides like DDT to more controlled poisons, aimed at specific pests, has been the culprit.

 

Back when DDT was used, it destroyed all the bugs in the building. Thus it got everything from the roaches to bed bugs, ants, fleas, ticks and even spiders. No crawly thing survived the attack. But DDT was a deadly poison that crept out into the environment, killed birds and less harmful insects, and even had its effects on humans. It has been banned since the 1960s and for good reason.

 

In the meantime, our world has gotten smaller. People travel freely from country to country via airlines that move them from place to place within hours.

 

Bed bugs can go days without feeding, and wait patiently for a new host to carry them from place to place. They live on our blood.

 

Most homeowners in the United States don’t remember having to deal with bed bugs. But they soon will. These insects are tough to eradicate. Even professional pest control services sometimes have to return to a home more than once. The bugs might be killed, but then the eggs hatch and you do it all over again.

 

They are called bed bugs because these tiny brown insects like to hide out in cloth, under bed frames, behind picture frames and sometimes burrow into mattresses. They stay where the food is. And since blood is their main course, humans are the food source. They feed while we sleep.

 

While they are a nuisance, the word is that bed bugs are not connected to any health hazard. In other words, they are not believed to carry disease like fleas and mosquitoes do. At least, that is the official word.

 

As this problem evolves, who knows what new horrors await in the future.
















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