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Bed Bugs: A Brief History

Bed bugs have become a huge problem in major American cities over the last decade, and now they are even finding their way into rural areas. Many Americans are surprised to learn that the bed bug battle is nothing new to US soil. In fact, bed bugs were once so common that they were present in most American homes! They were successfully controlled, and stayed  at bay for many years before becoming a problem again. Here’s a brief history of bed bugs that can help you understand how these pests were originally controlled, and why they are still such a problem today.

Early Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bugs can nest in all sorts of materials, and when the earliest American settlers found their way to the United States they brought bed bugs with them. The ships that European transplants arrived on were full of bed bugs, and so were most of the homes that these people built. While there were many home remedies that were used to prevent the bites that these bugs are so well known for, none of these solutions successfully removed the presence of these pests.

Bed bugs continued to be a major problem all of the world until the 1950s. At this time the bed bug problem was practically destroyed in all of the then-developed countries due to breakthroughs by American scientists. This breakthrough came in the form of a chemical product known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (commonly called DDT). DDT was the first product that could successfully kill off bed bug infestations, and it was applied  in great quantities in homes all over the world.

This ended the bed bug problem for many years. Small infestations would become present in poverty-stricken areas and shelters, but it was very rare for these pests to find their way into hotels or a large number of homes. All of this would change several decades later.

The Bed Bug Resurgence

By the early 1990’s bed bugs were back and more of a problem than ever before. Many factors led to this resurgence, and these same factors are the reasons that bed bug populations are so difficult to control today. They include:

  • Increased international travel. In the 50’s, pest populations rarely spread from one country to another. Today international travel is cheaper than ever, and each year the number of international travelers continues to climb. Because bed bugs hide in clothing and suitcases, and oftentimes live in hotels and hostels, bed bugs sneak into the United States every day.

  • Overcrowded cities. New York City and many other cities across America hold far more people today than we could have ever estimated, and these overcrowded conditions make it easy for bed bugs to spread. In apartment complexes, town homes and duplexes, these pests can spread from one unit to another with ease, making it possible for bed bugs to find their way into your home without being brought in.

  • The ban on DDT. While DDT seemed like a miracle cure in the 1950’s, some things are just too good to be true. This was certainly the case with this chemical agent, and it didn’t take long for its use to banned in America due to the many threats that it presents. There are many other chemical treatments that are used to fight bed bugs today, and while effective none have proved to be as successful as the original bed bug killer.

Today there are many methods used by pest control experts to control bed bug populations. Chemical sprays and heat treatments are the most common approaches, but other types treatments are starting to be used as well. If you suspect that bed bugs may have found their way into your home, it is essential that you control it as quickly and as effectively as possible.

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