The Resurgence of Bed Bugs

By Amanda Moses

In August, the Spring Creek Sun featured an informative article on bed bugs. Remember, those pesky, tiny, flat, oval shaped parasitic insects that leave red bite marks on your body, particularity on your arms or legs? Well, we’re writing about them again because bed bugs are the hardest pest to eradicate from one’s apartment.

According to the Bedbug Registry, a free, public database of bedbug sightings in the U.S. and Canada, there have been 4,490 reports of bed bug infestations in New York City. Although it may seem like bed bugs are an early to mid-2000s issue, they actually first emerged in the United States (US) during World War II. As technology and hygiene improved, and the creation of the insecticide DDT, bed bugs were pretty much eradicated by the 1950s in the US. However, internationally beg bugs remained a problem before they made a silent reemergence in the US during the 1990s. According to Bed Bug Central, a professional pest control information site, no one has a defining factor as to why or how bed bugs came back to the US, “bed bugs secretive behavior, coupled with a lack of public awareness, has enabled this insect to move very efficiently from one dwelling to another and has facilitated their rapid dispersal throughout the country.”

bed-bug-infographic1Bed bugs are yellowish, white or reddish in color (depending on their growth stage). These tiny insects can be found in any household because they are able to enter your apartment through clothing, luggage or used items such as beds and couches. The reason you don’t notice when you are bitten is because they suck your blood at night while you are sleeping. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.”

The agency found that bed bugs can often be found hiding: in the seams of couches, between cushions, folds of curtains, drawer joints, electrical receptacles and appliances, under loose wallpaper and wall hangings, at the junction where the wall and ceiling meet, box springs, bed frames, headboards and mattresses. So why are these bugs so hard to control? It appears that there is no exact chemical formula to fully eliminate bed bugs. That is why there are so many protocols you must follow to remove bed bugs from your apartment (throwing away furniture, mattresses, washing all clothes, etc.) Since bed bugs are so tiny and can pretty much hide anywhere, the only way traps work is if the bed bugs walk through them.

The Nature Communications journal recently published a study from a team of researchers who are searching bed bug’s genomes for a sign of weakness—bacteria. The difficult detection of tiny bed bugs and their volume of reproduction make them a difficult insect to eradicate. Scientists have tried to examine a bed bug’s lateral gene transfer (LGT), which is the instance in which genes are transferred from bacteria to its chromosomes. By doing so, they are hoping to find a way to help pest control remove these bugs from apartments. One of the team members, Jack Werren, a biology Professor at the University of Rochester, says a few have genetic material from bacteria.  However, Werren notes that a great deal of research still needs to be done to create a fully functional eradication method.

For now, all you can do is keep a look out for red bite marks, never bring used or furniture found outside into your apartment and check your mattress periodically.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency these are some signs to tell if you have bed bugs:

•Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases

•Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes and walls

•Bed bug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide

•An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands If you believe you have a bed bug infestation, immediately call the Maintenance Department at 718- 240-4646