Renee has an excellent interview with UK entomologist and bed bug expert Clive Boase posted over at New York vs. Bed Bugs today.
One of the strongest messages coming from the discussion is that, in the UK at least, bed bugs were declining in the 1930s — well before DDT was available — due to better management of infestations:
. . . regarding DDT, this is often claimed as being responsible for the demise of the bed bug in the late 1940s and 50s. However, here in the UK, bedbug infestation levels were declining fast in the late 1930s, some years before DDT was introduced. This decline coincided with the introduction of the Public Health Act 1936, which gave local authorities (i.e., local government organisations) powers and responsibilities to deal with vermin, including bedbugs. To me this suggests that effective bedbug control is as much about organisation and management, as it is about using high performance insecticides, although of course they help.
This should give us a lot of hope as to the possibility of getting a handle on bed bugs again — just by dealing with them in a smarter, more organized way.
To this end, Boase makes recommendations that will come as no surprise (and I am paraphrasing here): detecting infestations early (which requires a pro-active, not reactive stance), the availability of good pest control to everyone who needs it, laws that support access to dwellings to carry out necessary treatment, getting residents to fully participate with treatment, aggressive treatments to eliminate (not just reduce) bed bug numbers in a dwelling, and, finally, follow-up inspections, to make sure bed bugs are really gone.
While, as I say, these recommendations are no surprise, they nevertheless elude us at this time. From where I stand, most bed bug eradication activity is reactive and comes after someone complains (and generally only to the someone who complains).
We need to get to a place where that complaint leads to careful inspections (and possibly treatment) in attached or adjacent units. And where that treatment is routinely followed up by treatment and inspections ensuring the problem is entirely gone.
I strongly recommend everyone read this New York vs. Bed Bugs article in its entirety.
And after you’ve done so, New Yorkers, join our NY vs. Bed Bugs campaign. Because without government support, I can’t imagine us getting to the solutions Boase describes.