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Media Criticism - the bed bug story

Media stories about bed bugs are found to be full of disinformation, which is a sign of either lazy reporters not seeking out enough sources, or a disinformation campaign being launched by the chemical lobby which does not want to be blamed for an environmental disaster, such as a plague of pesticide resistant bed bugs.
Since I discovered that I have bed bugs I have been touring around the internet doing research right from day one and what I have discovered is that the media is doing a terrible job of covering the bed bug story, and as a result many of the bed bug blogs I have read are full of misinformation which echoes this bad reporting in the media. One of the most common themes in the media stories you will read if you do a search for news articles on bed bugs is that we have bed bugs because DDT was banned, thus forcing us to use 'weak chemicals' against bed bugs. This is false. Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s and Rachel Carson did not write Silent Spring until the 1960s, and by this time DDT resistance among bed bugs was so widespread that DDT was no longer the chemical of choice for treating bed bugs. The chemicals that replaced DDT were not 'weaker' chemicals forced upon the country by environmental extremists. The proof of this fact is that it took bed bugs that latter half of the twentieth century to develop resistance to these toxic chemicals, with the end result being that entire generations of people, such as myself, have lived their entire lives to this point in time without even thinking about a bed bug. The chemicals have not changed, and they remain as toxic as they ever were, only the bed bug has changed.

In some media stories an expert is interviewed who flatly states that he knows of no cases of pesticide resistance among bed bugs. There are two possible explanations for this disinformation that come to my mind. One is that the reporter was being lazy, and did not interview more than one source, and the expert scientist hasn't been keeping up on reading his papers, or what we are seeing is some sort of campaign being launched through the media by the 'anti-environmental movement' and the chemical lobby with the end goal being to bring back DDT and launch further attacks on the environmental regulations in the country by exploiting growing public anger and frustration with the ongoing spread of our pesticide resistant bed bugs. It is worth noting here that the scientific studies that report wide spread pesticide resistance among bed bugs in the United States are coming under attack by the chemical lobby, and this sort of thing is no surprise, and is much like having the tobacco lobby stating the cigarettes add twenty years onto your life. The chemical lobby does not want to get blamed for a pestilential plague of bed bugs, and so they are attacking the scientific studies which demonstrate that bed bug resistance to pesticides is now wide spread in the United States. Although I have not read any reports on studies conducted in
Europe or Australia, there are also studies indicating that bed bugs in Africa have become resistant to both DDT being used in an anti-malaria campaign, as well as to the usual pesticides used to treat bed bugs, and there are also reports of resistance in India, where up to 65 per cent of dwelling places are said to be infested with bed bugs.

There are alternative toxins available to be unleashed upon bed bugs, but they are banned because they pose serious health risks to humans. One falsehood I have read on bed bug blogs states that 'DDT is non-toxic' and I have also heard this statement in media stories, which is no doubt where a lot of the urban legends on the bed bug blogs have their origins. The point to be made here is that all toxins are toxic, to both bed bugs and human beings, with the only differences being in the required dosage and the length of exposure. When bed bugs are sprayed people must move out, and there is a reason for that. The chemicals are toxic. It is worth remembering here that Hitler used a common insecticide (Zyklon) to kill Jews in the gas chambers, this insecticide being the same product that was being used at the time to clear German homes of such pests as cockroaches and bed bugs, and when applied in larger concentration, was also effective in the gas chambers when employed against human beings.

There have been reports that immigrants are responsible for our bed bug plague, but this turns out to be disinformation as well, since if immigrants were bringing over their bed bugs then we would expect to see a plague of tropical bed bugs, but samples taken of the bugs in North America and Europe show that the bug that is spreading is the common temperate bed bug, and thus not an import brought to our pristine shores by unsanitary immigrants (the exception here is Australia, where infestations of tropical bed bugs have been discovered). While it is true that our five star hotels on the west and the east coast are infested with bed bugs, the bugs are native to the developed world and not tropical imports, which means that they are domestic bugs or they are imports from Europe. This sounds like more chemical industry propaganda, since the chemical lobby does not want to be blamed for an environmental disaster, and they also do not want people to stop spraying, and there is a lot of money to be made in spraying these days with bed bugs spreading everywhere.

The approach recommended by the chemical lobby, and repeated by the bed bug blogs, is to repeatedly spray resistant strains of bed bugs with pesticides. Scientific studies indicate that such a practice actually increases the plague in the long run, although it can seem to be beneficial to individuals in the short term. One drawback to this pattern of spraying resistant bed bugs again and again is that bed bugs are known to vacate the premises when sprayed one to many times, which then leads to the conclusion that there was once again a successful 'extermiantion', when what actually happened is that the bed bugs found the environment to noxious and vacated the premises to relocate elsewhere. I live in a high rise, which I have discovered, has been sprayed repeatedly, driving bed bugs from apartment to another, which is how I wound up with the things. To make matters worse, the bed bugs which survive repeated spraying and then run off and vacate the premises are the most pesticide resistant strain.

That repeated spraying of stubborn infestations of bed bugs increases resistance is just a logical outcome, in that by thinning out the herd a process of artificial selection takes place, with the weak eliminated and the strong surviving. When a weak bed bug with low resistance mates with a bed bug with strong resistance, experiments reveal that the result is a bed bug with medium resistance. When weak bed bugs are eliminated the result is that there is no competition for mates for the strongly resistant bed bugs and so the off spring of such bed bugs are always strongly resistant bed bugs. If such strongly resistant bed bugs then flee the premises after being sprayed one to many times this may be celebrated as a successful extermination process, thus sparing the chemical lobby the embarrassment of admitting to an environmental disaster, the real result is the spreading plague of resistant bed bugs. Bed bugs have struggled with our ancestors for ages past, and being bugs, have gotten the short end of the stick one to many times, as you can tell by studying bed bug behavior, and for this reason the bed bug has adapted to live up to one and a half years without a host. All blood sucking ecto-parasites exhibit the same behavior, in that they wander for extensive periods of time in search of a new host. In the distant past, many bed bugs having been driven out of a village by hunger, when humans denied them a food source, would then no doubt have died in a forest some where after a year and a half of random wandering, but obviously enough bed bugs would manage to wander to the next village to try their luck for the species as a whole to survive, for we do have bed bugs today.

According to the magazine Nature, an experiment in Africa involved repeated spraying of bed bugs over a period of a year and half, which seemed to control the population for a time, with the end result being the growth of resistance among the bed bugs and a resurgence in their numbers. According to the article, "14-19 months after this treatment the bed-bugs were present in sufficient numbers to be considered of nuisance value. In a series of laboratory tests it was shown that whereas bed-bugs from an untreated area were all dead after a seven-day exposure to 0.1 per cent dieldrin using a method suggested by Busvine , there was only an 18 per cent mortality for a similar exposure time among bed-bugs from the treated area."

Bed bug resistance to spraying is also very wide spread in the United States, with resistance levels reaching really amazing heights.
"Bed bugs collected from human dwellings in Cincinnati (OH) and Lexington (KY) were reared under laboratory conditions using a warm membrane feeder with chicken blood. Progeny from these field populations were exposed as adults to filter paper discs that had been treated with technical grade deltamethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin in acetone. Extremely high levels of resistance to deltamethrin (>12,765-fold) and lambda-cyhalothrin (>6,123-fold), relative to a susceptible strain, were detected in populations from both states. Offspring of a cross between a resistant and susceptible strain had intermediate susceptibility, but still showed a 1,481 resistance ratio for deltamethrin. Evaluations of populations from across the United States indicate that resistance to pyrethroid insecticides is already widespread. Without the development of new tactics for bed bug management, further escalation of this public health problem should be expected."

One urban myth you encounter out on the bed bug blogs is that the reason why people are stuck with bed bugs they cannot get rid of is because the pesticide industry is overrun with incompetent hacks, who don't do their jobs right. There is a heaping ton of denial out in bed bug blog land, and while the constant calls for DDT are a tacit admission that bed bugs are resistant to pesticides, and while the complaining about 'environmental extremists' forcing people to sue 'weak pesticides' is also a tacit admission that the pesticides are not working, for some reason no one will admit that their bed bugs are resistant to pesticides, and instead they blame Rachel Carson, incompetent hacks who they hired again and again, or the environmental movement for the fact that they cannot get rid of their bed bugs. This might be understandable when you consider that people with bed bugs are clutching at straws, and ready to be deluded into believing just about anything, and thus they are also easily duped by bad stories in the media or chemical industry propaganda. They are unable to imagine any other solution to their nightly torment than a chemical spray, when a simple bed tenting operation would allow them to 'sleep tight' without allowing those bed bugs to bite. Rather people with bed bugs they cannot get rid of are left to think of the bed bug as some kind of invincible super bug, the bug of steel, while they, the human being, are its helpless victims, taken captive and subjected to nightly torture sessions at the hands of some ruthless bug. This whole mentality is upside down, since that thing is just a bug, and they are human beings.

The ideal solution to the a plague of bed bugs is not chemical, but rather to follow some ancient advice, and just don't let those bed bugs bite. If a bed bug cannot bite, it needn't bother setting up a nest in your place, but if it can bite it will set up a nest close to where you sleep and the biting will begin. What is required from people is some alterations to their normal life style, which are not to complex but does represent a change. I recommend tenting your bed, because you see a bed bug is not a super bug, the bug of steel, it is just a bug, and it is a bug that is used to being foiled by humans who do all the thinking in that symbiotic relationship, which is why bed bugs have evolved to be so damned sneaky in the hopes of getting away with all that biting. What other choice do they have?

While I am back on the subject of bed tenting, I thought I would mention that there is a plague of bed bugs in the nations homeless shelters, which then provides a breeding ground for bed bugs, which are phenomenal breeders, with a single pair producing up to 500 offspring. This makes homeless shelters into effective launch pads for invasions of bed bugs into suburbia. I have read a story where one homeless shelter spent 20,000 dollars on pesticides over the course of two years, to no avail, and then blamed the repeated recurrence of bed bugs upon homeless people who keep bringing in bed bugs after the place had supposedly been sanitized by spraying. Now the population of North American bed bugs are currently mixed, with some populations susceptible to spraying and some resistant, with the susceptible bed bugs being sprayed out of existence at the moment, so that in the long run only the resistant bed bug will remain. With this in mind it is more than likely the case that the homeless shelters do not have susceptible bed bugs, but rather they have had mixed populations, and when the bed bugs seemed to disappear, all that happened was that the weaker were replaced by the strong, which survived, and then the plague reoccurred.

If homeless shelters can find 20,000 dollars over the course of a couple of years to spray bed bugs, then certainly they could spend that money on a more viable solution, something that will really work over the long term. I would like to recommend that they wrap their mattresses and tent the beds. People will get a bed bug free night of sleep and eventually the bed bugs will be gone, and in the meantime they will not be sucking blood, and bed bugs cannot lay eggs and reproduce without a blood meal so the population explosion will be halted at the same time. If someone with bed bugs on their person sleeps in a bed, the wrapped mattress can be vacuumed and the sheets can be laundered, and the tenting could be laundered as well.

Therefore I would like to suggest that people start putting some pressure on to get those homeless shelters tented and wrapped, since when a bed bug population explodes, bed bugs must send off colonies to new locations seeking a food source, and this, too, is a survival strategy of bed bugs, since if one colony loses its meal ticket, by that time it has already sent out lots of feeder colonies to other locations and the species as a whole does very well and survives. If people do not want bed bugs invading suburbia they should see to it that something is done about those terrible conditions in those homeless shelters, and since this wrapping and tenting doesn't cost a fortune and is more effective than wasting money on continual and ineffective spraying, I can't see any reason why this shouldn't be done, except that it might piss off the chemical lobby, thus causing politicians to refuse to do it because they don't want to piss off a powerful lobby group.

DIELDRIN is not DDT 17.Dec.2006 19:48


Please include some links to information showing that bed bugs are resistant to DDT. Your www.nature.com article references Dieldrin, a pesticide ruled illegal in 1987, which is NOT DDT. Therefore, you have provided no evidence for your claim that bed bugs are resistant to DDT.

DDT 19.Dec.2006 11:27


I realize that people who are stuck with bedbugs they cannot get rid of are pinning their hopes on DDT, but bedbugs developed resistance to DDT back in the 1940s, and so the belief that DDT is a silver bullet or a wooden stake through the heart of the bedbug is just an erroneous urban legend. The study quoted in Nature did not concern the malaria program but was an entirely separate study of the effects of bug bombing bedbugs (repeatedly spraying bedbugs with pesticides).

If you want to find studies on DDT resistance of African bedbugs you only need to do the following Google Search
african bedbug ddt resistance
 link to www.google.ca

A story on the BBC site describes how the use of DDT in the malaria campaign makes bedbugs more active so that they bite more often.
As the chemical dries, it leaves a white deposit on the hut walls, and it has been found to make bedbugs more active.
The government entomologist who leads the hit-teams, Keith Hargreaves, says most people accept that as a small price to pay.
"The bedbugs they can tolerate," he says. "But to watch one's children die of malaria - that no man can stand."

This problem is not new as reported in previous studies...
 link to www.blackwell-synergy.com
Tropical Medicine & International Health
Volume 9 Issue 8 Page 846 - August 2004
Historical review of malarial control in southern African
"Social resistance to DDT application due to bedbug infestation, as they are resistant to DDT (Newberry & Jansen 1986) "

The website Africa Fighting Malaria also reports that there is resistance in Africa to the DDT based malaria campaign because DDT makes bedbugs bite more often.
DDT is not only highly effective in malaria control, but it is also significantly cheaper than the other insecticides that are suitable for IRS...Bedbugs are resistant to DDT, but are irritated by it, making them more active. This is unpopular with residents of DDT sprayed houses."

A recent report on South Africas War against Malaria: Lessons for the Developing World, also states that
DDT remains effective in. killing mosquitoes, bedbugs have developed. resistance to it

It is interesting to note that a new strain of malaria that is drug resistant has emerged

During the 1960s, at the time when Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring was released, there were many historical reports of DDT resistant mosquitos. This remains a problem today.

Control of Malaria Vectors in Africa and Asia
DDT has already been replaced by organophosphate or carbamate insecticides such as malathion or bendiocarb where DDT resistance has been detected

Anopheles arabiensis and An.quadriannulatus resistance to DDT
DDT resistance in some target vector mosquito populations

The Bed Bug Resource 02.Jan.2007 07:52

Sean bedbug@telus.net

I am a former pest control technician and current Quality Assurance Manager & Technical Advisor for one of North America's largest pest control companies.

I have created a bed bug website dedicated to providing resources to the general public.

The Bed Bug Resource can be found at www.thebedbugresource.com . At this site there is also a message board (forum) available with some of the world's leading bed bug researchers and professionals. If you or anyone you know would like to ask questions, get information, or offer assistance to others in need please drop on by.


Entomologist / Pest Professional

Bed bugs will bite during the day if hungry enough 11.Jan.2007 09:48


Dear Sir:

Thank you for your comments regarding bed bugs. I would hate for people to think that by simply putting a casing on both their mattress and boxspring and then tenting the bed that the bed bugs will die out. They will find a way to then bite during the morning/afternoon/evening while you sit on your couch, the carpet, they'll latch onto your clothes, turn up in your purse or your car, etc. Best of luck to anyone with this problem; I've been living with bed bugs since March of 2006 and I've run out of patience.

Bed Bugs - Business and Vacation Travel 20.Mar.2007 04:44

Jenna Nicci admin@qregistry.org

The least talked about travel concern of the past is increasingly becoming a concern for travelers. Bed bugs.
The resurgence in bed bugs that were all but dormant for almost three generations has travelers as well as hostellers on alert, There are lots of views as to why, with no clear cut answer for the resurgence. Some contribute cheap travel and those who venture to tropical locations who have transported the hitchhikers to every country. Others stand that the explosion in their population and traveled distance is due to the non use of pest applications taken out of service by EPA standards, as unhealthy for humans and animals. The new strains of bed bug are hardy and the exact profile for their eradication is varied. What works in a dry environment will not be as effective in a wet climate. Temperature is also an influence. For pest control professionals the task of control and eradication of the bed bug is daunting. The use of human pet safe second generation chemicals now in use by the pest control industry have not been as effective as were the bed bug cocktails of years gone by.

Bed bugs have had blood meals from guest in backpacker motels to five star hotels. You do not feel them bite. Most people do not know the bugs are in bed with them until they see where the bugs have had a blood meal on various parts of their body the next morning. The pain, itching and any complications, which develop later, come from the bed bug injecting his saliva into your body to keep your blood from coagulating while he feeds. We educate the traveler about bed bugs with facts provided by world recognized authorities, Our site has been commended by Entomologist , hotel trades publications, travelers and those whom are good stewards of their property and wish to convey this to potential guests.

On a positive and proactive note:
There is an International web site www.QRegistry.org that can be used as a travel accommodations reference for business travelers and vacationers. www.QRegistry.org lists hotels, motels, vacation properties who are proactive in an effort to avoid bed bug and pest infestation. QRegistry.org posts articles from experts about bed bugs their identification and the various methods of getting rid of them.

From the backpacker motel to five stars; each room indexed must be verified as having good pest control practices administered by a professional licensed service and training programs for their staff for inclusion. Qregistry.org will present your complaint of infestation to the property owners as well as the appropriate health agency for further investigation and extermination. QRegistry can be an aid to the business and vacation traveler who seeks accommodations where bed bug prevention efforts is a standard of sound accommodations management.