Bed bugs are insects classified as members of the order known as Hemiptera (True Bugs) which is comprised of 50,000 – 80,000 species that share a common trait of sucking mouthparts. The sub order Heteroptera is a group of about 40,000 species of insects that includes the Cimicidae family; which lives solely by feeding on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The most common and well known member of the Cimicidae family is the Cimex Lectularius also known as the bed bug.
Although the exact origins are unknown, it is believed that bed bugs originated in the Middle East, most likely in caves inhabited by bats and humans. Evidence of their existence and long association with humans has been documented in 3500 year old bed bug fossils found in an Egyptian village.
The first written mention of bed bugs was in ancient Greek documentation as early as 400 BC, and later by Aristotle. The first known published reference was in Pliny’s Natural History around 77 AD in Rome. It claimed that bed bugs possessed a medicinal value for treating infirmities like snake bites and ear infections. An interesting note is that the belief in bed bugs medicinal value persisted through the 18th century where Guettard (the French naturalist and mineralogist) recommended their use for the treatment of hysteria.
Later mentions of bed bugs appeared in 11th century Germany, 13th century France and in England circa 1583. There is little mention of bed bugs in England prior to 1670. It is speculated that the reason for this is that bed bugs were introduced in numbers to England with the supplies of wood used to rebuild the city after the Great Fire of London in 1666. In the 18th century Giovanni Antonio Scopoli noted the bed bugs presence in Carniola (present-day Slovenia)
The bed bugs natural population cycles rise and fall with their food sources and harborage locations. In the twentieth century (mid-1900s) bed bugs were a common pest, but after WWII (late 1940’s) the bed bug population declined dramatically. The most likely culprit for the bed bug decline was from the widespread use of the insecticide DDT (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane). The DDT insecticide was commonly and extensively used to control the cockroach population; although the bed bug was not the intended target; DDT proved very effective in controlling them as well.
Today bed bugs can be found all over temperate climate areas of the world where humans have established themselves and congregated in numbers where there are ample blood meals and safe harborages nearby. Bedbugs are a worldwide problem that has been resurging with a vengeance within the last couple of years. They can cause property loss, unwanted expenses and are a major inconvenience. This problem has become such a big concern in the United States that a National Bed Bug Summit was convened for the first time on April 14 and 15, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. Most experts believe the resurgence is associated with more international and domestic travel, complacency, a lack of knowledge on how to prevent bed bug infestations, the bed bugs increased resistance to pesticides and ineffectual pest control practices.
Bed bugs: Current infestation trends
The United States, Canada, Europe and Australia have all reported an increase in bed bug infestation activity within the last 10-15 years. Historically it was thought that bed bugs were only found in dirty, poorly maintained environments. The truth is that bed bugs are infesting all environments, clean, dirty, high-end, and low-end. In recent years many accommodations such as hotels (1 star – 5 star), hostels, homes, apartments, schools (Colleges/dormitories), hospitals, homeless shelters, overnight trains and cruise ships have reported encountering some level of bed bug infestations.
In the United States ALL 50 states have reported bed bugs. Between 2000 and 2005 the U.S. National Pest Management Association reported a 71% increase in bed bug calls. Steritech (http://www.steritech.com/), a pest management company, claimed that 25% of the 700 hotels they surveyed between 2002 and 2006 needed bed bug treatment. In New York City the number of reported incidents rose from 500 in 2004 to 10,000 in 2009. The resurgence in bed bug infestations led the United States Environmental Protection Agency to hold a National Bed Bug Summit in 2009.
There is no single explanation for the resurgence of bed bugs, but the prevailing theory is that bed bugs never truly disappeared, but were forced to seek alternative hosts for their food supply. Scientific examination of the bed bugs DNA shows no evidence that there has been an “evolutionary bottleneck”. To further support the alternative hosts’ theory investigators in Arkansas have found large bed bug infestations at poultry facilities. Unfortunately the workers at these facilities could be unknowingly transporting the bed bugs to their residences or other locations.
Some of the more popular questions surrounding bed bugs are What do bed bugs look like, Pictures of bed bugs, Signs of bed bugs, How do bed bugs spread and most importantly How to get rid of bed bugs yourself. This site is devoted to answering these questions and providing you with up to date and current information on bed bugs, their infestations and how to get rid of bed bugs yourself.