Dr. Michael Potter on bed bugs: “It’s going to get worse. We’re in for some very, very interesting times.”

by nobugsonme on June 7, 2007 · 4 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, entomologists, spread of bed bugs, tennessee

Lisa Hoffman did a story on bed bugs inThe Knoxville News on Tuesday. Most interesting was the article’s examination of the rise of bed bugs, and comments from University of Kentucky entomologist Dr. Michael Potter.

A scourge of mankind since caveman days, the wingless creatures all but disappeared in the United States after World War II, when the widespread use of DDT and other powerful insecticides apparently spelled their doom.

A general shunning of such chemicals in recent times, and a surge in international business and tourism travel, are most often identified as responsible for the re-emergence, which some say has not yet even peaked.

“It’s going to get worse,” said University of Kentucky urban entomology professor Michael Potter, a scientist not given to hyperbole or melodrama. “We’re in for some very, very interesting times.”

Just how interesting will be hard to quantify, however.

No one is counting the number of infestations nationwide. Because the insects are not believed to spread diseases, there is no federal requirement for city or state public-health departments to report the number of cases they come across. Only a few local health agencies even keep track of the problem in their own jurisdictions.

Pest-control companies provide one of the few gauges available, and they portray a fast-growing market for their services, driven in part by increasing public awareness of the long-forgotten insect, which usually are the size and oval shape of an apple seed, though often flatter.

Industry giant Orkin, Inc. says “bed bugs” is the No. 1 search term it registers on www.orkincommercial.com, and reports that the number of states in which its exterminators have done battle with the bugs jumped from 35 in 2003 to 48 now. (The two missing states are the Dakotas, where Orkin has no outlets, Meek said.)

I’m glad to see the article commenting on how the government is not tracking infestations (as I believe it should be).

It’s no surprise that the article reports Orkin has now had bed bug cases in every state except the Dakotas, where they have no outlets. (Other reports have said all 50 states are experiencing bed bug infestations, so I hope someone is experienced in dealing with them in the Dakotas!)

Another unscientific measure of the problem is an assortment of Web sites operated as victim-support groups, such as www.bedbugger.com, where the afflicted trade tips and tales of woe.

No press is bad press, and I’m glad the Knoxville News did research on our site. I prefer the term “bed bug warrior” to “victim,” though I’ll take the latter if it means people see having to live with bed bugs as a crime, unfair, and something that must be stopped at once!

From these and other sources, a picture emerges of the proliferation of bed bugs — and it is not a pleasant one. Many distraught travelers and tenants describe their experiences as life-changing episodes that leave them emotionally scarred, saddled with hundreds of dollars in exterminating bills, perpetually cleaning, and scared to sleep or travel. Some report suffering with more than 100 bites.

As an example of a “victim’s” experience of bed bugs, the article says,

Listen to “Selma B.,” of Cincinnati, who moved to escape an infestation: “I am still freaked about this. I am convinced my new apartment will get infested. To my friends, I compared this to having a fire destroy all of your possessions. What little things you might get to keep, you have to clean it like a crazy person. It’s just as devastating as a fire, but a fire doesn’t usually come back,” she wrote in January on one Web site.

Oddly enough, after having already mentioned Bedbugger, Hoffman decided not to mention that this was the site where Selma B. had left her comments in January. She’s the sixth commenter on one of Jess’s posts, here. I am glad this reporter read our site so extensively, even if she did not attribute that quotation to one of our commenters. The important thing is that the message gets across about how bad bed bugs are. “100 bites” is the tip of the iceberg: some Bedbuggers have lived with bed bugs for months and months. I don’t think people can fathom what that means, unless they’ve gone through this for even a few weeks.

Lisa Hoffman also covers bed bugs today in Scripps News, where she mentions PCO Sean’s helpful bed bug resource. Congratulations, Sean!

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1 lieutenantdan June 7, 2007 at 9:44 am

Big News! Well done nobugsonme.

2 nobugsonme June 7, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Thanks LtDan. Every time we are mentioned in an article, I like to think that at least someone reading that article who needs us, is able to find us.

I do hope that the site offers something not just for bed bug warriors, since we do go beyond the tips and tales of woe.

3 James Buggles June 7, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Congratulations on the press.

4 nobugsonme June 8, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Thanks, James!

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