The New York Times had a slightly more personal story on our friend Dr. Louis Sorkin yesterday, “The man who lets the bed bugs bite.”
In it, Lou talks about how people have always brought bugs to him at the American Museum of Natural History, asking for identifications. And ten years ago, they started bringing bed bugs.
Around 1989, someone brought in our first bed bug. Most entomologists had never seen a live infestation before. Now, infestations may be approaching the levels of 50 years ago, before DDT was used.
Some of the chemicals used now appear to have similarities to DDT, but bed bugs have developed ways of bypassing the toxicity. Some bugs were recently collected here in New York, and a journal article reported that they were 300 times more resistant than other bed bugs to one of the common insecticides.
That’s why pest control companies do all sorts of things besides using chemicals: heating, freezing, steaming, vacuuming. The hardest part of controlling bed bugs is finding them. Most of the literature out there talks about a quarter-inch-long reddish-brown insect, but a bed bug is a millimeter long when it’s born, about the thickness of a credit card.
That lack of information about the appearance of nymphs is indeed a big problem, and Lou persistently mentions this to journalists when he talks to them. It’s a good thing he does, since news articles seem to almost always only describe the appearance, size, and color of adult bed bugs.
Lou also talks about his bed bug colonies, and how he got interested in the crawly world of entomology as a child.
Check out the rest of the article; I know you’re very glad, as I am, that we have Lou as an active voice, trying to educate the world about bed bugs.
And see my earlier post from today with amazingly detailed photos courtesy of Lou, of bed bugs harboring in a bed frame, headboard, and box springs.