History, Resurgence and Future of Bed Bugs
Cimex lectularius, or bed bugs, have been causing a lot of discomfort and paranoia in different countries ever since the start of recorded time. They were first brought by European explorers when their pest-infested ships docked in North America. Bed bugs increased in number as more Europeans settled in North America. The continuous development of cities, villages and the increase in population allowed bed bugs to easily establish new habitats and spread hysterically.
Where It All Started
Bed bugs are said to have originated in the Middle East inside caves that both humans and bats inhabited. The lineage of bed bugs can be traced by simply checking the origin of their name. In Ancient Rome, these pests are called Cimex, which means “bug”, and the designation of the species is “Lectularius” which refers to a bed or couch.
These insects have been living off the blood of their hosts ever since ancient times. It was even believed that bed bugs first parasitized bats and moved on to humans, as they also inhabit the caves where the bats are living.
The Growth of Civilization = Haste Multiplication of Bed Bugs
Fossils of these bugs were found more than 3,500 years back in many archaeological sites. During those times, bed bugs were used as a potion for curing common ailments. Romans and Greeks would burn these bugs to make leeches release their hold. On the other hand, Egyptians drink them as a treatment for snake bites.
As the civilizations grew, the bugs multiplied easily and spread not only in Europe but in Asia as well.
By 100 A.D., their presence was well-known in Italy. They continued making their presence known as they spread in China by 600 A.D., in Germany in the 1200s and in France by 1400s. Bed bugs were able to enjoy life comfortably inside the castles of the wealthiest of families and even in huts of less fortunate working class because of the heat generated from sleeping and cooking fires.
The 1800s to Early 20th Century
It was documented that in the early 18th century, bed bugs were a severe problem in Canada and other English colonies. Attempting to get rid of the bugs, many would opt to have their beds made using sassafras wood. Others soaked crevices with boiling water, arsenic and sulphur. Despite all the problems in other places due to these pests, Indian villages were not having issues with infestations.
Many believed that bed bugs spread in London due to the supplies brought in for rebuilding the city after the Great Fire in 1666. It was noted by Giovanni Antonio Scopoli that the bugs were also present in Carniola, which is present-day Slovenia. Travellers back in the days were wise enough with their habits as they would pull beds away from the walls and put the legs of the beds in pans filled with oil.
In the early 20th century, most Americans have seen and been bitten by one or more of these bugs. They were considered among the top pests concerning many structures at that time.
Unexpectedly, They Were Gone
In the 50’s bed bugs were unexpectedly gone in most developed countries. American entomologists were having a hard time finding and using live bugs for laboratory work.
The reason behind this is the use of DDT. It was used to exterminate bugs and was found to have the same effects with bed bugs. DDT would be sprayed or dusted around and over the entire bed. It was an effective solution, but the use of DDT was banned in 1972 due to the adverse effects that DDT and Malathion pose on human and environmental health.
Aside from the use of DDT, it was also believed that using a vacuum cleaner as well as simplified designs in furniture helped to eliminate the bugs. Others even believed that it might have been the cyclical nature of the organisms.
As many people felt relieved with the decrease in bed bug infestations, there was a major resurgence. In the mid to late 90s, there were more sightings of bed bugs not only in residences but also in hotels and motels. Infestations were not only limited in establishments offering affordable accommodations, but with luxurious ones as well. They started showing up in nursing homes, hospitals and apartments.
Their comeback is not something that anyone should take lightly as the increase in the population of bed bugs is fast-paced. The issues happening in premium hotels and other establishments are making it in the national news. Experts saw an exponential increase in the bed bug population with almost 500% increase in reported cases over the past years. Cities such as New York, Montreal, LA, Toronto and Vancouver have all been invaded by bed bugs. Although causes for the resurgence of bed bugs are unclear, we can assume that this is caused by a combination of:
- Increased human mobility
- Changes in pest control solutions
- Resistance to pesticides
- Lack of public awareness
Without taking action, the increase in bed bug population may continue to spread in more cities and countries.
Looking back, bed bugs were almost completely eliminated. This leaves us with the hope that eliminating them is possible. More people will be affected by the increase and spread of bed bugs with the lack of awareness about these pests. One way to slowly reduce the population of the bugs and prevent them from spreading is raising public awareness.
With the ease of travel and crowded cities, protection and awareness about bed bugs should start at home. One way to do this is through the use of monitors and traps. Mattress encasements and important tools are necessary to protect your home from being a breeding ground for these pests.
Bed bugs are not only infesting homes but other establishments such as theatres, schools and healthcare facilities. You need to watch out for bed bugs and prevent bringing them to your home or other places.
For now, you should be vigilant and get yourself all essential tools for detecting, monitoring and preventing bed bugs. The principle of bed bug management lies in hard work and regular monitoring to detect the presence of bed bugs in the earliest stages. Everyone should work together on overcoming bed bugs. Talk about it and act now!