Have you heard the Berlin Wall Theory about bed bugs?

by nobugsonme on April 24, 2014 · 9 comments

in bed bugs

This is a short video news segment about Dr. Dini Miller’s lab at Virginia Tech and her grad students who work on bed bug research.

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What struck me most was this soundbite from Dini Miller about DNA testing of bed bug populations:

“A lot of these bed bugs are genetically connected to Eastern Europe, and if you think about when the Berlin Wall came down, and the fact that we started seeing bed bugs in this country in the 90s — in the late 90s — there’s directly a tie.”

Interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard this theory before.

It’s fun to get a glimpse into a bed bug lab and it’s always good to hear about the grad students who are currently studying bed bugs. The more researchers working on this problem, the better.

If you have bed bugs, please take the newscaster’s doom-and-gloom about how “no chemical is killing” bed bugs with a grain of salt. That’s not exactly accurate, as pest professionals do eliminate bed bugs successfully using chemical treatments — every day.  It is not easy and does take knowledge and skill, but I believe most bed bug cases in the US are handled using sprays and dusts.

You can view the video on the WDBJ website if the embedded video does not display above.

1 David Cain April 24, 2014 at 7:48 am


I am glad you picked up on the alleged link between the resurgence and the Berlin wall. Sadly there are many such cases of a single issue being stigmatized because its often easier to try and seek blame than to seek solutions.

I have seen many different ethnic and social based groups blamed for bedbugs over the years and have long since come tot he realization that although there are some links so certain factors which may have ethnic or social connections blame does little towards actually solving the problem.

The exception to the bedbug blame game is the issue of chemical resistance. It is regularly blamed as an issue due so rarely do we bother to look at its cause. Just as we have seen and generally acknowledge int he medical field it was the over prescription of anti-biotics which has led to their failure. In some cases we can clearly see that poor treatment efficacy and efficiency are compounding issues. These are only resolved with better education, working practices and experience. As much as pure research is needed there is still a gap in the role of technical education and training.

However if nothing else this and much of the other news we see about bedbugs compounds the message of educate on avoidance and detect early if anything gets through the net.

As an aside I actually lived in Berlin in the early 80’s when it was still a divided city, if it were an issue in the old East Germany the trains that ran between West Berlin and West Germany would have been transfer points to the city and although I was young at the time I have asked my parents and they can confirm it was not a known problem. In fact it brought out more stories of how they dealt with bedbugs during a North Africa posting in the late 60’s. One has to wonder if there was a secret invasion of East Germany by the North Africans that caused the alleged issue in East Germany?

Please ladies and gentleman the sooner you all stop looking for someone to blame we can get down tot he business of putting solutions in place.

David Cain

2 CarpathianPeasant April 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

She started with German cockroaches. So, how are they similar?

3 Lou Sorkin April 24, 2014 at 11:05 am

It’s interesting that the commentator noted many times that nothing [pesticide] kills them. But that’s not true. Non-chemical treatments will work as well. Too bad all the info wasn’t pointed out and it became a skewed report. World-wide infestations didn’t evolve from one locus alone.

4 nobugsonme April 25, 2014 at 11:52 pm

It’s interesting that the commentator noted many times that nothing [pesticide] kills them. But that’s not true. Non-chemical treatments will work as well. Too bad all the info wasn’t pointed out and it became a skewed report. World-wide infestations didn’t evolve from one locus alone.


5 nobugsonme April 25, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Hi David,
It does seem possible to confirm that bed bugs in Virginia share DNA with Eastern European populations, and yet come to other conclusions as to how this occurred.

Perhaps we will be able to get some further commentary from Dini Miller.

6 nobugsonme April 25, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Hi CP!
I don’t think it’s unusual for entomologists to study more than one pest, or to move on from one to another. We’re lucky when researchers turn their interest to working on bed bugs. 🙂

7 Ci Lecto April 30, 2014 at 10:48 am

I suspect that part of the problem is BB traveling with people and goods from countries where some pesticide or practice keeps them in check, but does not eradicate them fully. The BB arrive at a new destination where that technique isn’t used and it’s “party time”.

8 cliff May 23, 2014 at 9:52 am

Ref, ” how to live with bed bugs ” We treated a 2 bedroom apartment in a major city where the infestation was overwhelming. The resident had figured out that if he would go from the bedroom where he was sleeping to the other one the bugs could not find him for 2 or 3 days, so he got relief, then back to the other bed. He said it he got some relief. We treated it for free as he was sort of mentally challenged. I do not recommend this as a solution but it is about as good as some of the treatments I see out there with zero residual.

Now he has no bugs on him. He is happy

9 nobugsonme May 26, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I am curious how you treated this problem, besides the back and forth sleeping method (which is generally not recommended).

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