Bed bugs disappeared in the United States for about four decades before returning to the U.S. in the 1990s. Experts have a few theories about how a comeback of an insect once thought eradicated took place. The return of the bed bug has enabled insect removal experts to learn a lot about insect control and how insecticides are not always the best solution.
Pesticide Bans Began
DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) ravaged the bed bug population. Scientists created the powerful insecticide in the 1940s to help reduce the prevalence of insect-related diseases like malaria. It helped protect people, animals, and crops from insects, but the chemical was not as safe as believed. Experts eventually realized the threat of DDT to wildlife and human health.
DDT now carries the status of a probable human carcinogen. Some countries still use the insecticide, but the U.S. banned the use of DDT in 1972. The absence of DDT since the early 1970s may have made it easier for bed bugs to re-establish themselves in the United States once the pests arrived again.
Travel Increased Internationally
Bed bugs did not spontaneously reappear in the United States. The return of bed bugs was likely because of an increase in global travel. Bed bug eradication efforts in the U.S. succeeded in the 1950s. During that decade, about 25 million people took part in international tourism. By the mid-1990s, international travel grew to about 540 million people per year.
Americans would visit exotic locations and occasionally brought home more than souvenirs. Likewise, travelers coming to the U.S. may also have unknowingly transported some pests. The small size of bed bugs made it easy for them to go unnoticed hitchhiking in luggage and clothing and the constant flow of travelers gave them plenty of opportunities.
Bed bugs disperse as people arrive at their destinations such as a home or hotel. Some may even stay behind on an airplane and travel with other people to another location. The pests spread more when people go out to shop, sightsee, and go to restaurants and events. The spread took time to become a concern across the country, but eventually bed bugs found their way to all 50 states.
Mutations Complicate Removal
Evolution enables many living things to adapt to their environment. The exposure to DDT helped bed bugs mutate and become more resistant to the spray. The changes that protected them from DDT also made them safe from other common pesticides. Through natural selection, the insects most resistant to pesticides were more likely to survive and reproduce.
Initial attempts to eradicate the pests as they arrived in the U.S. were often unsuccessful. The time spent on failed removal allowed the insects to increase in population and spread further. Using only insecticides is why homeowners often struggle to stop the problem on their own. Pest services have now adapted their bed bug removal techniques to include other methods.
Modern removal services involve solutions like heat treatments and other pet- and people-friendly approaches. Further, repeated infestations could mean there is a need for additional preventative measures including sprays and behavioral modifications. Pest removal companies can create a custom plan to meet the needs of a single-family home or a larger infestation in a commercial building or an apartment complex.
People can spend days relentlessly cleaning and replacing items in their home as they attempt to remove bed bugs. It is frustrating to work so hard only to wake up in the morning with fresh bites. At No Bull Bed Bug Control, we specialize in bed bug removal to ensure you can sleep peacefully. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a free inspection.