Are We in the Midst of a Bed Bug Invasion?

Bed bugs used to be a thing of the past. Most of America’s adults had only heard of bed bugs in terms of “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Where before this phrase was a typical night time salutation, it seems it has now become a very real concern. Why it is we’re all the sudden more aware of bed bugs? Are they once again becoming a household word because they are, in fact, back in American households? Or we blowing these creepy crawly little monsters out of proportion?

According to Schulz (2011), bed bugs certainly are popping up around the U.S., and around the world at an alarming rate. Home owners and apartment renters aren’t the only ones worried about this recent outbreak of bed bugs, a recent summit was held in Washington D.C. by the EPA in order to discuss methods of addressing this very real problem. Reports that New York City was seeing a rise in bed bugs have turned into big cities across the nation seeing a rise in bed bug presence. One problem is that there is a lack of responsibility being taken by the government on who and how this problem should be tackled. Schulz (2007) says that a big part of the bed bug problem is that “it is not clear which agency – housing, health, agriculture, or environment – has authority for any given aspect of the problem.” This makes fighting bed bugs a big problem that home owners and apartment renters are finding they have to deal with.

Another major problem being faced is the stigma attached to bed bugs (Strong, 2010). Homes infested with bed bugs are often seen as dirty and disgusting, with their residents being regarded as lazy and messy. In reality, bed bugs can infest any home, even the most immaculate. Strong (2010) notes that “many high-end New York residents, for instance, keep their bed bug infestations secret to avoid embarrassment.” Why is this a problem? Well, the key to keeping bed bugs in check, and most importantly from spreading, is reporting them and addressing the problem at hand. When apartment or home owners don’t report an infestation to proper housing authorities or bed bug watch websites like Bed Bug Registry, the risk of further infestation spreads.

Sites like Bed Bug Registry provide a list of places where bed bugs have been encountered. This includes hotels, apartments, and other businesses. A site like this allows local government to gage how many people are experiencing a bed bug problem, and where these exposures are occurring. Furthermore, it allows bed bug conscious individuals the chance to avoid exposure, and possibly taking them home with them, when visiting bed bug ridden places.

Apartment and home owners are also afraid to report problems and seek outside help due to the cost and uncertainty related to fixing the problem; as well as the stigma that may be passed down from landlords. Technically, unless you are the source of the problem, landlords or associated agencies need to pay to keep pests under control. However, landlords are quick to cut costs by blaming renters for causing the problems themselves. In fact, it can be difficult to prove one way or the other who is at fault for a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can come in from outsides sources like infested hotels or businesses (including offices), or they can come in through holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. So, your apartment may have become infested due to a neighboring infestation.

As mentioned earlier, the costs of eradicating the problem is also a serious consideration for the typical American. It can cost thousands of dollars, a number of different home visits from pest control, and personal up-keep that is not only costly but time consuming. Bed bugs live in mattresses, on clothing, within holes and crevices is wood, virtually everywhere! So, throwing everything out isn’t an option, and frankly, it isn’t going to fix the problem. Throwing out infested goods can even spread infestation if the item is picked up and carried into another home.

So, how big is the problem? In 2009 it was reported that “one in fifteen New Yorkers had bed bugs,” that’s a year ago, and only in New York. Surely the numbers are higher in New York now, and other big cities around the world surely have similar amounts of cases. A 2010 report noted that “revenues from bed bug extermination hit $258 million” in 2009, and 2010 and 2011 revenue is only expected to go up from there(MSN, N.d).

With the money it costs to remedy the problem, and the high prevalence of bed bugs in cities across the U.S., it seems that Americans need to take more time examining their destinations before going. New Yorkers reported bed bug infestations even in places like the movie theatre! Not only does more time need to be spent in preventing bringing bed bugs into the home, but residents need to speak up and report their problems. The governments need to be pushed into action in every city across America. We’re now struggling with a problem that was once nearly completely eradicated, and although no diseases are currently associated with bed bugs, they are clearly a troublesome problem indeed (Environmental Protection Agency, N.d). Not only do bed bugs bite, but the generally bite in vast quantities, and many people’s body’s react to them with swelling, itching, and redness that greatly affects one’s quality of life.

It’s official, bed bugs are a serious problem. This is not a false epidemic, it is a very real, and very serious problem sweeping the nation. The more awareness to the problem, and the more standing up and reporting infestations, the greater the chances that home owners and apartment renters will not be alone if and when they experience a bed bug problem.

References:

Environmental Protection Agency (N.d). Bed Bug Information.

Strong, J. (2010). Is the EPA to Blame for the Bed Bug ‘Epidemic’? The Daily Caller.

MSN (N.d). Bedbug Invasion is Turning into Big Business. MSNBC.

Schulz, W.G. (2011). Battling The Bed Bug Epidemic. Chemical and Engineering News.

Butler, K. (2010). Why Is An Epidemic of Blood-Sucking Bed Bugs Sweeping the Nation?
AlterNet.