These days you cannot be too cautious when trying to prevent a bedbug infestation in your home. Bed bugs can be picked up anywhere in public, as daily news reports clearly demonstrate. Bed bugs have become so commonplace that some people now think twice before sitting on a public bench. Transporting bed bugs back to our homes is not too hard, as they can find their way onto our clothes within no time at all. Most of you are probably aware that bed bugs only started becoming an issue in developed countries during recent decades. Of course, bed bugs were an issue long before the 1990s as well, but when exactly? When and why did bed bugs disappear in the first place? Why did bed bugs come back? And why are they so hard to eradicate once an infestation is noticed?
Bed bugs were quickly transported to America from Europe via transatlantic ships that carried vast amounts of immigrants to America. Once the twentieth century arrived, bed bug infestations were becoming a public nuisance. It is likely that very few Americans living at the time had managed to avoid bed bug bites by the time they reached adulthood. During the early twentieth century, bed bugs were considered one of the three worst pests in and around structures, and this included all pests, not just insect pests. Some surveys from this period in time show that bed bugs were found in nearly one third of all homes. In poor income areas of the United States, bed bugs were likely present in all homes at one time or another. In these low income areas, bed bugs were considered “public enemy number one”.
The bed bug scourge continued unabated during the first half of the last century. But once the 1950s arrived, bed bugs became scarce. Even laboratory scientists had difficulty tracking down specimens for use in studies. Soon bed bugs were only considered occasional pests in settings that housed socially disadvantaged people, but they were almost never found in hotels or typical homes. This change was due to a chemical insecticide known as DDT, which worked wonders when it came to eradicating bed bugs. However, DDT was eventually outlawed, and the sharp increase in international travel did not help to keep bed bugs down. These two factors are likely the most important when considering why bed bugs have made a comeback since the first half of the last century. Bed bugs have been hard to get rid of during recent decades due to their ability to evolve genetic mutations that make them more difficult to eradicate. Pest control professionals are capable of eradicating termite infestations, but termite populations have become too numerous for immediate eradication. Most of the time, bed bugs remain in one single public place for a period of time before they are noticed and eradicated. Unfortunately, by this point in time, bed bugs have moved to many more locations by hitching rides on people’s clothing.
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