Okay, I think everyone here agrees that there were multiple causes for the rise of bed bugs after their 50-year disappearance in the US: the end of routine baseboard spraying which was done until the early 1990’s and fell out of favor with the invention of effective roach baits, the outlawing of DDT as a residential pesticide, and the rise in international travel (including the international and domestic movement of all kinds of people).
So imagine my surprise when WBTV 3 in Charlotte had this to say:
Bed Bugs are Back
An outbreak of bed bugs in southwest Charlotte. Some people in Steele Creek are concerned these small bugs are taking over their apartment complexes. They met with police, code inspectors, and apartment managers to discuss the issue today. Exterminators told the group they’ve seen an enormous spike in bed bug calls since last year. Exterminators say a lot of these pests brought here by folks from overseas.
Every entomologist I’ve heard from has painted a much more complex picture of the causes of bed bugs’ return. Most PCOs (and note: they don’t like to be called exterminators anymore), also paint a more balanced picture of the causes. This Charlotte, NC CBS affiliate should be more responsible. This kind of one-sided report just stirs up bad sentiment against immigrants, and spreads misinformation, by neglecting to mention these other reasons for the return of bed bugs.
I’m glad Charlotte residents, police, code inspectors, and apartment managers met to discuss bed bugs, and heard from “exterminators.” But they’re not getting the whole picture.
If they want to know why bed bugs are spreading in Charlotte and elsewhere, they might consult this post we ran back in February, when a Charlotte used furniture warehouse was found to have 600 unsanitized mattresses in its possession. I’d like to link to the original article, but it has since been taken down by the newspaper (many news sites don’t allow access to old articles). We did quote it at some length in our original report.
The Charlotte Observer reported at the time that inspectors had ordered the mattresses to be cleaned or destroyed, but 600 of them were still in the shop a month later. It was unclear how many had already been sold. What’s more, the warehouse was still planning on “dumping” 200 of them. Now where do you suppose some of those mattresses ended up? Probably as beds for local people who convinced the store to sell them one (even though they were intended for hotel guests), or who found them dumped. It is unlikely that hoteliers shopping in the store did not purchase any of the used mattresses during that month. So some of us from elsewhere may also have been subjected to these unsanitized mattresses and the bed bugs that surely lived in some or many of them.
It would be nice if the media gave more care to covering such stories rather than simply blaming one segment of our society.
When I said it was not only travelers (of every kind), but also business people who were spreading bed bugs, I did not only mean those business people who were traveling and staying in hotels (though this is true too). Remember, some people can actually make money spreading bed bugs. Greed spreads bed bugs. As, for that matter, do stupidity, misinformation, turning-a-blind-eye, looking-for-scape-goats, and keeping-your-head-in-the-sand. But especially greed.
Before playing the blame game, look to yourself, look to your neighbors, look to those who want to make a fast buck and don’t have much foresight.