History & Resurgence of Bed Bugs

Everyone, or almost everyone, has at one time or another been told the phrase, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Bed bugs have been bothering humans for thousands of years. They’ve been around since ancient times and have been documented in various cultures throughout history. It’s believed that bed bugs originally fed on bats and then adapted to feed on humans when our ancestors lived in close proximity to caves and other dwellings where bats nested.

Records of bed bugs date back to ancient Egypt, where they were mentioned in writings around 3,500 years ago. The bugs were depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and were associated with disease and impurity. They were also mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman writings. In fact, the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about bed bugs in his natural history writings, describing their habits and the irritation they caused.

Bed bugs have continued to be a nuisance through the centuries. In our desperation to control them, a variety of methods were used such as various herbs, smoke, and even arsenic. In parts of Asia, women would take the mattresses out of their home each morning, beat them, leave them to bake in the sun all day, and then bring them back in to sleep on that night. However, this method never removed the bed bugs from inside the house. The advent of synthetic pesticides like DDT in the 20th century initially reduced their numbers significantly, but widespread use of these chemicals also led to a built-up resistance in bed bugs which in turn led to a resurgence in many parts of the world. The banning of DDT was a big contributing factor to the bed bug resurgence. Increased travel both domestically and internationally also contributed the influx of bed bugs also.  

According to Killingsworth Environmental, “Today, one in five Americans have had an encounter with a bed bug. Pest management firms have reported an 81% increase in bed bug-related calls since 2002!”  

As you have probably read in the news, recently, both Paris and Las Vegas have had a resurgence of bed bugs. It’s definitely not the first or last city that had or will have an outbreak of bed bugs. In recent years, both France and the United States have experienced a troubling uptick of bed bugs, leading to a widespread nuisance and concern among residents. Despite efforts to control these pests, their resilience and adaptability have allowed them to re-emerge in alarming numbers. In France, urban areas like Paris have been particularly affected, with reports of infestations in hotels, homes, movie theaters, and public transportation. Similarly, across various states in the US, bed bugs have staged a comeback causing distress for homeowners, hoteliers, and various other businesses alike. Factors like increased travel, resistance to pesticides, and lack of public awareness have contributed to the persistence of these tiny yet persistent insects. Both nations are intensifying efforts to combat this resurgence through innovative pest management strategies and public education campaigns aimed at preventing and controlling these unwelcome intruders.

According to Pest Control Technology’s most recent poll, 55% of Pest Management Professionals have observed bed bugs resistant to chemicals. Bed bugs have exhibited a troubling resilience against traditional chemical treatments, posing a significant challenge in efforts to eradicate them. Over time, these persistent pests have developed a remarkable resistance to commonly used insecticides, making it increasingly difficult to control infestations effectively. Their ability to adapt to various pesticides, particularly those in the pyrethroid class, has been a major concern for pest control professionals and homeowners alike. This resilience not only complicates eradication but also emphasizes the need for innovative approaches such as integrated pest management techniques, heat treatments, and non-chemical solutions to effectively combat these resilient insects and mitigate their impact on households and establishments.

All of these facts are a little troubling for the general public as well as pest control companies. Let’s first address some steps for the general public to stay bed bug free at home.

  1. Inspection:  Be sure to inspect any bed you will be sleeping in outside of your own home.

a. Place luggage in a bathroom while inspecting the room. Bed bugs are not a strong bug and are not able to easily climb tile.

b. Bed bugs are generally found within five feet of the headboard wall as they like to find an easy way to feed. Turn on the lights near the bed and use a flashlight on your phone to help with your inspection.

c. Pull the mattress back from the headboard and lift the sheets, inspecting the ribbons of the mattress. Pay close attention to seams or rips.

d. Lift the mattress up about 2 feet on the headboard end and inspect for dried blood (black spots) or live bed bugs and their eggs. Bed bugs are visible with the naked eye and so are their eggs.

e. Flip the bed skirt up and check the seams.  

f. Inspect the nightstand and furniture near the bed.

g. Precautionary Measures: After your stay, wash and dry your clothes on medium heat to kill any hitchhiking bed bugs. Leave your suitcase open in the car on a hot summer day if possible.

  1. Regular Home Inspections: Conduct routine checks in key areas prone to infestation, such as beds, furniture, and cracks in walls. Early detection is crucial in preventing a full bed bug infestation.
  2. Reduce Clutter: Decluttering minimizes hiding spots for bed bugs. Keep your living space tidy, reducing potential areas for infestations.
  3. Protect Your Bed: Use bed bug-proof mattress and pillow covers. These encasements trap any bed bugs already present and prevent new infestations.
  4. Vacuum Regularly: Pay attention to cracks, crevices, and upholstered furniture. Dispose of the vacuum bag or clean the canister immediately afterward.
  5. Be Cautious with Second-Hand or Thrifted Furniture Items: Inspect used furniture or items thoroughly before bringing them into your home.
  6. Use Caution with Shared Spaces: Be cautious when using shared laundry facilities or visiting places with potential bed bug risks. Inspect and wash/dry clothes at medium heat after.
  7. Educate Yourself: Learn about bed bugs, their signs, and how to identify them. This knowledge helps in early detection.
  8. Professional Help: If you suspect an infestation, seek professional pest control services. DIY chemicals purchased at retail hardware stores generally will not effectively eliminate bed bugs.

Secondly, let’s address the pest control industry and how pest professionals can combat the rising bed bug resurgence. Professional pest control companies often employ various methods to effectively eliminate bed bugs during the initial treatment:

  1. Comprehensive Inspection: Thorough inspections are crucial. Pest control professionals use their expertise to identify the extent of the infestation, locate hiding spots, and determine the best course of action.
  2. Customized Treatment Plans: Tailoring treatment plans to the specific infestation is vital. Different methods might be used based on the severity and location of bed bugs, such as heat treatments, chemical treatments, or a combination of both. Be sure if you’re using chemical treatments to rotate your chemical to a different class of chemicals.
  3. Heat Treatments: Professional pest control often utilizes specialized equipment to raise the temperature in infested areas to levels lethal to bed bugs. This method penetrates into furniture, mattresses, and other hiding spots where bed bugs might reside. Be sure to closely follow the instructions so as to get the heat in every crack and crevice, not leaving any cold spots for bed bugs to hide in.
  4. Follow-Up Inspections and Treatments: Even after the initial treatment, follow-up inspections are common to ensure the infestation is fully eradicated. Additional treatments might be necessary to eliminate any surviving bed bugs or newly hatched eggs.
  5. Education and Prevention Advice: Professionals often provide guidance on preventing future infestations, including tips on identifying early signs, travel precautions, and home maintenance practices to minimize risks.
  6. Collaboration with Residents: Encouraging cooperation from residents is crucial. Clear instructions might be given on preparation before treatments and steps to take post-treatment to avoid re-infestation.
  7. Use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Techniques: These strategies involve a combination of chemical and non-chemical methods, focusing on long-term prevention and environmentally friendly approaches.

As we can see, bed bugs have a long history of being a nuisance to people. It’s going to take a combination of the public becoming more educated about bed bugs and some clever integrated pest management strategies to combat the current resurgence. The Bed Bug Heat Doctor is here for support in answering your questions and helping you find the right tools for the job. Give us a call at 844.364.3281 to get the assistance you need in formulating the best plan of attack against bed bugs.