This insect is a cryptic, bloodsucking parasite that bites people at night while sleeping, and it's one tough cookie. History is r...
First come the bites, amazingly itchy, raised red welts that appear, literally, overnight. Then, you might notice scarlet spots on your sheets from smashed bugs or perhaps clusters of little black dots that you assume are dirt but are in fact constellations of fecal matter.
And one day, you might wake up in the wee hours of the morning, flip on the lights and find red bugs, slightly bigger than ticks, crawling on your sheets, pillows and legs.
Welcome to the most retro pest of the 21st century, the bed bug. The bugs, which were thought to be wiped out by powerful pesticides such as DDT 30 years ago, are back and infesting major urban areas, suburbia and the countryside.
Although concrete figures aren't available, it's safe to say bed bugs are present in every major city and in every region across the UK. This is a general problem and is on the upswing in all of our counties.
Bed bugs feast on blood, preferably human, but they're not known to spread any physical disease. They do foster a deep and unyielding sense of paranoia and panic.
Even if you exterminate them and they appear to be gone, they might be waiting to make their reappearance. They can live for up to a year without a meal. You can even leave the premises, but these insects will still be there up to a year later. It's a little like living with cockroaches, but these insects are living off you.
The key to fighting bed bugs is understanding why they're so hardy. They can burrow and survive in spaces the thickness of a credit card. And it's a common myth that they live only in mattresses and box springs. They thrive behind picture frames, in cracks and crevices on the floor and inside wooden hangers.
Once you pick them up in a hotel, a subway or a rental car and they invade your living space, it's difficult to get rid of them. They're becoming ever more resistant to the few sprays that are approved to fight them after DDT was banned in the 1970s.
Pest control experts started noticing a renaissance in bed bugs in the late 1990s. They attribute the comeback to two major factors: an increase in cheap air travel to exotic locales where the pest was never eradicated in the first place and the elimination of very residual long-lived pesticides that you could lay down along baseboards. As DDT and its relatives were phased out, more short-lived chemicals were adopted in its place. The suppression that was there by using the longer-lasting compounds is no longer there.
Undoubtedly, the worst thing about having bed bugs is never knowing when they're gone. There's no test, no trap and, usually, no peace of mind. Although, it is a general consensus that if you go for four months or more without being bitten, you're safe. But if you live in an apartment building and a neighbour has them, you're out of luck as the bugs are likely to return.
Unfortunately, even after more than 30 years since the DDT ban, there is no silver bullet waiting in the wings for bed bugs.
Article provided by SDA Pest Control