Some people rush to find blame. Why did bed bugs come back? Why now? Let’s find a scapegoat!
It’s not much fun to tell the truth and say that we’re not exactly sure, but that the elimination of routine baseboard spraying in homes (as a roach and general insect preventative), the move to baits and traps for roaches (from sprays), the outlawing of DDT (plus almost 30 years), coupled with a rise in travel, are likely to have all played a role in helping bed bugs regain their foothold.
For some pundits, it’s more fun to use bed bugs as fuel to a racist anti-immigrant fire, as William Gheen recently did on Denver’s 630 KHOW-AM show with host Peter Boyles. Watchdog group Colorado Media Matters covered the June 1 show, where Gheen first tried to use the man he referred to as “TB Boy” (A US citizen, mind you) to stir up fears about immigrants bringing in disease. And he then made the claim that,
We’ve got bedbugs back in all, almost all of our 58 states. We’ve got TB on the rise, we’ve got hepatitis, we’ve got HIV, we’ve got diseases like Chagas disease, which is a horrifying disease, but also, much like TB, is very, very difficult to treat at all. And it’s coming in because of the, the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws.
Yes, Gheen actually thinks we have 58 states, and he is willing to chalk bed bugs up as one more problem brought in due to lax immigration policies.
Colorado Media Matters, Bless them, responded on their website and supported the voice of reason by citing OSU’s fact sheet on bed bugs.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, contrary to Gheen’s insinuation that the presence of bedbugs in “almost all of our 58 (sic) states” is attributable to illegal immigration, a fact sheet on bedbugs prepared by the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences explains that “widespread use of baits rather than insecticide sprays for ant and cockroach control is a factor that has been implicated” in the resurgence of bedbugs in the United States. According to the fact sheet:
In the past decade, bed bugs have begun making a comeback across the United States, although they are not considered to be a major pest. The widespread use of baits rather than insecticide sprays for ant and cockroach control is a factor that has been implicated in their return. Bed bugs are blood feeders that do not feed on ant and cockroach baits. International travel and commerce are thought to facilitate the spread of these insect hitchhikers, because eggs, young, and adult bed bugs are readily transported in luggage, clothing, bedding, and furniture. Bed bugs can infest airplanes, ships, trains, and buses. Bed bugs are most frequently found in dwellings with a high rate of occupant turnover, such as hotels, motels, hostels, dormitories, shelters, apartment complexes, tenements, and prisons. Such infestations usually are not a reflection of poor hygiene or bad housekeeping.
Yes, the OSU factsheet does nod to other causes of bed bugs (international travel, the demise of DDT, etc.) but the bottom line is that bed bugs are being brought into and spread around the country by rich white businessmen and travelers, as much as by anyone else. Immigration laws are not going to keep bed bugs out, because they’re in: they’re here, and they’re a problem for all of us.
Instead of trying to lay blame (a pointless and offensively racist exercise), let’s get rid of the problem. Let’s see government and lobbyists and corporations doing what they can to stop bed bugs. It’s going to take money.
As I have said many times before, when it comes to the bed bug problem, we’re living in a matrix: whether you’re in a multi-unit building or shop in a store or go to a gym or ride in a taxi, you’re being exposed to your neighbors’ bed bugs, or they’re being exposed to yours. Until we fight bed bugs high and low, and provide funds to help those who can’t pay for proper treatment, and fight for better treatments, bed bugs are not going to go away.
Forgive the cliche, but you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution.
Thanks to Colorado Media Matters for paying attention.