I am always glad to see articles on bedbugs. Although this one today in Salon.com is a good start, it does not go very far in depth. Its description of where one might find these little monsters is limited, and many of us on the Bedbugger yahoo group would have thought we didn’t have bed bugs if we based our knowledge on it.
I am not saying that Salon.com should have published a how-to-rid-yourself-of-bedbugs primer (overkill for most people), or a how-to-avoid-picking-them-up primer. More hard-hitting journalism on why they’re here now and, perhaps the easier question of what governments should do about them now, is warranted. The latter, in depth, is what I would expect from Salon.com, so I was a bit let down.
One point the Salon.com article missed is that this is really a much bigger problem for single-family homes than people think. Toronto and Vancouver have bed bug epidemics along the lines of those in NYC, San Francisco and Boston. In Toronto in 2003, 1/2 of the bed bug treatments done by pest control companies were for single family homes, according to this article in the Toronto Star of a few weeks back. Although the vampires are going to spread much more quickly in multi-unit dwellings and in institutions, hostels, dorms, etc., this nonetheless should scare the pants off of homeowners who think this won’t happen to them.
Similarly, the Toronto Star article cites experts who suggest that in five years, bedbugs will be more common in homes than mice, roaches and carpenter ants. We should be very worried even if we don’t use public transport, frequent hotels, hostels, dorms, or residential institutions. Children in NY Public Schools, according to TV news reports, have suffered from outbreaks, as has the midtown NYC Ralph Lauren design studio. And the crucial point is that all those kids probably brought it home, as did all those Ralph Lauren folks. Because it is so, so easy to transport hitchhiking bedbugs. I could link to all that, but I will send you to the del.icio.us links for this site instead.
And how can you write that “entomologists are scratching their heads” about the source of this resurgence? That comment was completely isolated from the one about DDT, which the author rightly notes, was very effective against bedbugs. We need a carefully monitored, precise, indoor-only use of DDT in order to eradicate this pest. Those of you who have not had bedbugs may think that is extreme. The WHO recently approved DDT use against malaria in Africa. Yes, Malaria is much more serious than the discomfort caused by bedbugs. However, a judicious, careful use of DDT here, now, will keep bedbugs under control. The alternative is a massive epidemic. There are countries where 2/3 of children live in homes with bedbugs. I don’t think anyone is willing to let that become the norm here. And careful, judicious use of DDT indoors never harmed wild birds. It was the outdoor use, which was anything but careful and judicious, that was an environmental concern.
I hope Salon.com will follow up at greater length.
This is the letter I posted on Salon.com (which was picked as an “editor’s choice”; not sure what that means, but we’ll take flattery as and where we can find it, thank you very much!):
There were some gaps in this article besides the obvious one about “what to do if you have them.” Readers of Salon need to know that you can have bedbugs and still have a bed that is more or less pristine upon inspection.
Bed bugs can live on any furniture (though they love wood, they have been known to infest metal) and hide in the sneakiest places (like the little spaces in the heads of screws). They can live behind electrical plates and in light fixtures (as the other poster mentioned).
They can (contrary to the article) move around buildings without human assistance, especially by walking from one room or apartment to another along pipes. All of this is documented information, and all available on the net, but you do have to do some reading.
I am always glad to see articles on bed bugs, because people need to know about them, now. But they’re a lot more complex than you might think. People suffer for months longer than they need to because they can’t find the things.
If any Salon.com readers have surfed in, Welcome! Please check out our FAQs (a work in progress); the links at the right should give you more information, news, and photos to help you learn more about bed bugs.