I was perplexed by this article from August 20th in the Times (London, not New York) about the spread of bed bugs, mainly because it was only about the bed bug epidemic in the USA.

Times reporter Chris Ayres writes from Los Angeles,

Five decades after being declared officially dead, the most toe-curling of all America’s critters has returned, with a spate of bloodsucking attacks on unsuspecting victims as they sleep. The culprit is Cimex lectularius – otherwise known as the common bedbug.

“The most toe-curling of America’s critters?” As I understand it, bed bugs came to North America with the early European settlers.

Until recently it was known happily to Americans only from nursery rhymes. Not any more. Up to 5mm in length, wingless, nocturnal and covered in microscopic hairs, the bedbug was supposed to have been eliminated from the US by the pesticide DDT, which was later banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1972 because of the damage it caused to fish, birds and other wildlife.

But now the insect is back, and its sudden return has been proclaimed “one of the great mysteries of entomology”. Over recent months bedbugs have been turning up in hospitals, nursing homes, cinemas, dry cleaners, schools, public housing and even some well-to-do residential homes.

The article goes on to refer to Michael Potter’s words at the recent bed bug seminar in New York, Potter’s YouTube video, and Maya Rudolph’s lawsuit.

What about the lawsuit filed against the exclusive Mandarin Oriental in London, by a visiting businessman who was allegedly bitten extensively by bed bugs there?

Comments to the article from two Londoners and one London Pest Control Operator (David Cain, who is a participant in our forums) attest to the fact that bed bugs are indeed a serious problem in the UK. While the article does not claim bed bugs are not a problem in the UK, it also does not mention that they are.

Bedbugger.com’s cluster map (click here) shows the location of our readers in the UK, since June 2nd. We can assume our readers are people concerned about or seeking information about bed bugs. From what I can gather, most of our readers have, or recently had, bed bugs. As do the cluster maps of readers in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia (other places where people with bed bugs are most likely to log on to the internet and seek out our site about bed bugs that is primarily in English), our cluster map of the UK and Ireland shows bed bugs concentrated most heavily around cities. If you’re good at geography, you can imagine the city markers in these maps.

As I said in a comment which hasn’t appeared yet on the article’s site, London PCO David Cain is the only PCO I know of who specializes only in bed bugs. We hear from folks in the UK often. Rather than focusing on an exotic story of Americans being bitten by bed bugs and suing each other left and right (cue eye rolling and comments about silly Yanks), the Times should be paying more attention to its own bed bug epidemic which, while not reported on very often, seems to be significant and causing much genuine local distress.

There has been some coverage by the Oxford Mail, Norwich Evening News (original article no longer available), the BBC, the BBC again, thisislondon.co.uk, and this one about lorry [truck] drivers allegedly catching bed bugs on ferries between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

And, from the “Misguided Attempts to Solve Problem” file, let’s not forget this favorite from South London News online: “Bedbugs forced me to kip [sleep] in a cardboard box.”

It is not surprising that many of those articles on bed bugs in the UK talk about bed bugs as a “foreign” problem–something you might bring home from your summer holidays in (as in this example from an earlier Times column) Australia. Well, they are–in the UK as well as the US. But it is also very likely you got them from your neighbo(u)rs, and that they were born and bred close to your home.

Domestic or imported, bed bugs suck.

It seems to be a trusim about bed bug journalism: everyone thinks the bed bug problem is really bad somewhere else.


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