What’s Eating You?

The recent uproar over bedbugs barely scratches the surface


| July-August 2011



whats-eating-you-1

Matt Mignanelli / www.mattmignanelli.com

Bugs have always been in our houses and on our persons.

Truly, the arthropods shall inherit the earth. Or they would if they weren’t already running the show: Insects outnumber us 200 million to 1. Ants alone may account for as much as one-third of all animal biomass on earth, according to an estimate by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. But in the summer of 2010 bedbugs seemed to be on our minds more than usual.

New York, and therefore a large portion of American news consumers, were terrorized by bedbugs. But so what? There’s a story like that almost every summer, because reporters have less news to cover yet just as many pages and broadcast hours to fill.

So bedbugs are no big deal and you should sleep easy, America. Bedbugs are not as bad as you’ve heard. Right?

Actually, they are much worse than you have heard, says Gail Getty, a leading bedbug expert and entomologist at the University of California–Berkeley’s Urban Pest Management Center. “I don’t think people should necessarily panic at this point, but everything we know in the scientific community suggests this is going to get worse,” Getty says.

Bedbugs were a common household pest in America up through the 1930s, but after the massive DDT fumigation campaigns of the 1940s and 1950s, only small pockets of the insects remained. Their resurgence in the past decade probably has a number of causes, Getty says. The bedbugs that survived fumigations grew increasingly resistant to existing pesticides. Insect control became more targeted toward specific pests, meaning that if you call an exterminator for cockroaches, he’s just going to kill your cockroaches. Finally, bedbugs were never comparably reduced in the rest of the world, and international travel has become more common.

steve eatenson
6/20/2011 10:53:53 AM

I hope my comments don't bug you. Congressman Weiner must have been a bedbug in a previous life. Donald Trump must have been a toenail clipping eating roach in a previous life. I wonder if California allows their mosquitos to smoke medical marijuana and conduct gay marriages. If so, no wonder they all want to live there. With great insecticide companies like Monsanto and Dow who gave us agent orange and birth defect causing Roundup, I'm sure than can solve our bedbug problem that makes them money and helps us all out by further reducing the human population on earth thus solving our over-population problems. I'm just itching to read more. Remember, the South shall rise again. I think us Texans conspired to send envelopes of white powder, bedbug eggs, to New York hotels in disguised thank you notes for burning and plundering the South and forever taking away Sates Rghts and instilling Fderalism as their special gifts of the Civil War. We don't have the industry of the North down here to fight back but we have lots of roaches, mosquitos and buggies of all sorts.