It is no secret that bed bugs have reemerged in the United States as major insect pests that pose a significant public health threat. As far as Americans are concerned, bed bugs were widespread pests up until the mid 20th century when a powerful insecticide, DDT, successfully wiped them out in the United States. However, starting in the mid 1990s, bed bug infestations reemerged in the US. Since then, bed bug populations within the US have been booming. Today, just about everyone knows someone else who has at least one unfortunate experience with bed bugs. Every day, new reports of bed bug infestations within airports, public buildings, hotels, apartments and movie theaters are described in the news. Fifty years ago, nobody could find a bed bug in the US no matter how hard they tried, but now, avoiding bed bugs is a challenge for anyone who regularly ventures into crowded areas or into locations that see a high degree of human traffic.
In addition to rapidly increasing bed bug cases in the US, bed bugs seem to be a growing problem in other regions of the world as well, mainly Europe. This makes sense considering that the high degree of international travel and trade today makes the transport of these insects to other global regions impossible to prevent. However, the country of China is unique for its lack of serious bed bug issues. Considering that bed bugs thrive in densely populated regions, it is a miracle that bed bugs are not an epidemic public health issue in China, which is home to more than 1.3 billion citizens. But Chinese officials would insist that their lack of bed bug problems stem from decades of work at developing effective bed bug control programs.
Unlike in the US, Chinese officials struggled with bed bug control issues throughout the entire 20th century. During this time, Chinese researchers had ample opportunities for developing bed bug control programs. Thanks to a 25 year national bed bug control campaign that integrated chemical and non-chemical insecticides with community-wide control programs and government regulations, bed bugs are no longer considered pests of concern in China. This program lasted from 1960 to the early 1980s, and it was known as the “Four-Pest Elimination” program. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that bed bugs in China never developed a resistance to Chinese insecticides, as American bed bugs had with DDT and other insecticides. It is probable that the US could experience similar success with controlling bed bugs if community-wide efforts and public education were to be integrated with more direct methods of bed bug control.
Do you believe that American researchers will develop a method of bed bug control that proves to be as successful as the national Chinese bed bug control program?