The bedbug infestation in the US has reached levels which have not been seen in more than 50 years thanks in large part to their developed resistance to many known pesticides. The problem has gotten so bad that nearly half of the states in the country are supporting a proposal to allow for the emergency exemption allowing use of the pesticide propuxor which was banned for use in homes by the EPA in 2007. This is not the first time the EPA has been petitioned on this, the last time was in June of 2010. They denied that request.
Bedbugs are parasites that will feed on any warm blooded creature, but some varieties prefer the blood of humans. What scares many people concerning bedbugs is that they infest areas commonly used for lounging or sleeping, they are primarily nocturnal, and they can feed off a host without being noticed. The average adult bedbug feeds on its host for about 5 minutes, and feeds anywhere from every 5-10 days.
Bedbugs were eradicated for the most part in the US in the late 1940’s and most of the rest of the industrialized world by the mid 1950’s through the use of DDT primarily. Around 1995 though, bedbugs were noted to be on the rise in the central east coast of the US. It isn’t just the US which is experiencing the problem however as intercontinental travel is more common and bedbugs can easily make the journey safely tucked away in clothes, travel pillows, or numerous hiding places unnoticed.
It is now known that neither DDT nor organophosphates which were once successfully used to combat bedbugs are effective anymore with any regularity. There are natural predators of the bedbug that can wipe them out rather handily, but they are not considered viable options as that would just lead to another form of infestation. Spiders, mites, roaches, ants, the Pharaoh ant, and the masked bedbug hunter are all natural predators, but who wants to turn those loose in their home? Propuxor is a known chemical that will kill bedbugs, but it is also highly carcinogenic which is why it was banned for use in little more than pet flea and tick collars or for the control of crickets and roaches outside of homes. The other problem with using propuxor is that eventually bedbugs will likely become resistant to that as well according to Penn State entomologist Lyn Christman.
The bite of a bedbug will go unnoticed in an estimated half of the people that have them as there are no outwardly visible signs. There may be some itching, but a doctor can prescribe an effective corticosteriod regimen to treat that. In extremely rare cases, people living with a severe bedbug infestation may develop anemia due to the anticoagulants present in their saliva. In even rarer cases, a person may suffer anaphylactic shock. The good news is that although bedbugs are disease carriers, there are no recorded cases of them transmitting any of the pathogens they are known to carry.
Currently little is officially being done to try to stem the spreading bedbug infestation in the US. Most people are left to their own means to try to handle the problem. There is increasing pressure being exerted however for some form of help in communities that are hit the hardest. To this point, the EPA has done little other than issue warnings and tell people to be beware of fly by night pest control companies and using chemicals indoors that are designated for outdoor use only when attempting to rid themselves of an infestation.