It sounds like the premise to a bad B movie, but currently it’s a problem that’s still gripping the United States. Giant Bedbugs, are infesting homes and showing no sign of slowing down in the United States. And there’s no sign they’ll be slowing down. So will the night of the bedbug result in people losing their homes ultimately? How can we fight this onslaught of insects? And what’s behind this new strain of mutant bedbugs who are not only far larger than their previous counterparts, but actually immune to some of the most common bedbug poisons?
In an attempt to find the exact root of this massive cause of bedbugs, one of the best sources of information available right now on the subject of the insects is a blog (that’s right there are blogs about everything) dedicated to studying the bedbugs exclusively. The blog War on Bedbugs has several different theories on what precisely is causing the bedbug infestation, but two of the most prominent theories are a ban on previous chemicals designed to fight the insects coupled with a mutant strain of bedbug that has proved resistant to certain pesticides designed to replace the banned chemicals.
The ban of DDT has been one of the most controversial ecological bans on a pesticide for quite some time. Since the ban on the chemical in 1972, there have been numerous reports of a resurgence of insect populations. Considered to be the previously most effective insect repellent, DDT was banned according to the EPA for a number of reasons including adverse environmental effects (it did kill most insects it came into contact with) and a suspected increase in the amount of resistance some insects were showing to the insecticide. DDT was often used as a chemical deterrent of insects as early as World War II. And despite its miracle status as an insecticide, soon other companies developed more specific toxins to wipe out individual insect populations without as much ill effects on other insect populations. Among these was pyrethroid, which is among those the insects are showing a resistance to.
Currently bedbug infestations are the most extreme in New York and Vancouver, with others being reported in several other cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But unlike a few of the bedbug posts coming from media outlets, the problem is actually not out of control – yet. While the insects are causing mayhem and disrupting the lives of thousands, bedbug infestations in the United States have been around since long before the development of DDT. And currently exterminators are attempting to use heat in order to destroy the insect populations as quickly as possible, raising home temperatures with heat far hotter than a sauna in the hopes that the insects will die of asphyxiation and being burned alive. Unfortunately, this has not proven as effective as once hoped, as the insects are often able to find refuge in cracks and down pipes.
When will the madness of this current bedbug nightmare end? Proposals have been set forth suggesting that maybe DDT wasn’t entirely a bad thing. But DDT bans have caused far worse problems in areas where malaria is a major killer and mosquito populations are out of control. Can we justify bringing it back over a few bedbugs? And if we do, how safe will it be?