Science Wednesday:Bed Bugs, Not Just Your Grandparents’ Problem

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By Daniel M. Stout

Bed bugs are for everybody, not just for the few. This insect pest has coevolved with humans, following a trail of bites from our prehistoric caves to our modern dwellings. Your grandparents knew this pest and were familiar with methods to cope with its nightly forays into their beds, disturbing their sleep and leaving tell-tale bites.

With the advent of pesticides we were able to gain about a 30 year respite from this nuisance. But the bed bug is back, resurging with a vengeance, and to make matters worse, we have forgotten how to deal with them. Figuratively, we got caught with our bed sheets down.

Bed bugs have become a problem in all 50 states and are being transported nationally on our luggage and personal possessions. In fact, it is reported that 95 percent of professional pest management companies have encountered bed bugs in the past year. And, consumers paid $258 million for bed bug control in 2009.

The problem is so significant that a congressional bed bug forum was convened and the Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act was proposed. In February 2011 EPA will participate with other federal agencies in the second bed bug summit.

Do you have questions about bed bugs, such as:

  • Are you wondering how this pest resurged?
  • Are you concerned about preventing bed bugs from infesting your home?
  • Do you currently have bed bugs in your home or are you wondering how to avoid bed bugs as you travel?
  • Do you believe bed bugs can jump or fly?
  • Are you curious about what they look like, how to identify them, and how to tell if they are biting you?

Greenversations can help! Send me your questions and share your experiences about bed bugs in the comments below.

About the author: Daniel M. Stout II is an urban entomologist who joined EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in 1998 and conducts research on the behavior of pesticides, primarily insecticides, following their application in residential environments.

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