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History, Resurgence and Future of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have been biting people since the beginning of recorded time. They were first introduced to North America by European explorers when their ships would be riddled with the pest. As European settlers increased in North American soil, so did bed bugs. The formation of villages, cities and increased population made it easy for bed bugs to establish themselves and spread from one dwelling to another.

Between the 1900’s and 1950’s and with the introduction of central heating, bed bugs had become a common problem for households in North America reducing the quality of life by posing economic, psychological and physical burdens. Thus began the war on bed bugs and everyone was taking action to eliminate these critters using turpentine, gasoline, kerosene, benzene and alcohol. Then came DDT and Malathion which proved to be very effective against bed bugs when the solution first came out. As the years passed, bed bugs had been virtually exterminated from North America and people could comfortably sleep at night. However, due to the adverse affects that DDT and Malathion pose on human and environmental health, government officials put a ban on the use of products like DDT for bed bug extermination. 

The late 90’s saw an exponential increase in the bed bug population with almost 500% increase of reported cases over the past years. Cities such as New York, Montreal, LA, Toronto and Vancouver have all been invaded by the bed bug. Although causes for the resurgence of the bed bug 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

What the past can tell us is that there’s hope. Bed bugs have been eradicated once, so why can’t we do it again. Statistics are alarming and society will be affected as long as people continue to live in oblivion about bed bugs. We need to raise public awareness and have everyone do their part to reduce the population and avoid the spread. With crowded cities and ease of travel we need protection at home. You can do this through an implementation of monitors and traps, mattress encasements and all the essential products. Everyone should watch out for bed bugs not only in your home or hotels, but also schools, theatres, health care facilities, daycares and etc... In the meantime be vigilant and equip yourself with the necessary tools to detect, monitor and prevent bed bugs. The essence of bed bug management lies in hard work and constant monitoring to detect at the earliest stages of development. We must work together by being informed to overcome bed bugs. Talk about it!