Friday, March 12, 2010

Girault and the bed bugs

by Renee Corea on March 3, 2010

In History

This appears on the home page of New York vs Bed Bugs web site. 

"New York vs Bed Bugs was started by a small group of New Yorkers who were bed bug sufferers or former sufferers. We had a simple goal: we wanted our city to achieve control of the spread of bed bug infestations. In March 2008, we started a campaign for a bed bug task force. In February 2009, the New York City Council held a hearing on various legislation proposals, including the original bed bug task force bill (PDF) sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer in 2006. 

Thanks to Council Member Brewer’s sustained efforts over the past several years, the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board was convened. Please see the local law (PDF) which created the board and the Mayor’s March 2009 statement upon signing the legislation. A report is expected in April 2010." 

I assume that Renee has been the hosting the web site all of this time.  She has done a magnificent job in the BLOG section of the site. These are two of her last posts.   However the site will remain up for some time and I think this is important because I can't find any site anywhere that has been more thorough about the history or science of this issue.  Renee and her group have worked hard and passionatly to alleviate the suffering of New Yorkers of this plague.  They will be missed I am sure because they have impacted the views of untold numbers far from New York.   These  two articles have been reprinted with Renee's permission.  Rich K.

Alexandre Arsène Girault checked into an elegantly furnished room in one of the best hotels in Cincinnati on October 29, 1907. It was close to midnight. Later he would have occasion to ask the hotel manager if anyone had slept in his room the night before.


Girault worked for the U.S. Bureau of Entomology. He was 23. His major work on chalcid wasps — and the many “eccentricities” that were to shape his tragic life — were in the future.

He takes pains to describe the events of the night in detail. This is his description of the room:
This room was on the second floor, and proved to be a rather small one, about 18 feet long and about 12 feet wide. It was elegantly and neatly furnished, with the walls painted a dark gray and ornamented with mural paintings of flowers; the floor was well carpeted. The bed was of iron, painted black, and the whole room, including the rest of the furniture, presented the usual neat, cleanly, and attractive appearance found in hotels of this class. The room was lighted with two 16-candle power electric globes on a chandelier suspended from the middle of the ceiling, and about six and a half feet above the floor. Also these lights were just about four feet above the bottom third of the iron bedstead; the bed was therefore in full glare of the light. A neat, bronzed steam radiator supplied heat.
The temperature in the room was 75dF.

I found a photograph of a (comparable?) hotel room, c. 1910:

A room in the Chittenden Hotel, Columbus, Ohio, c. 1910 - Library of Congress

And this is Cincinnati in 1907: (And for more history, this is the lobby of the Hotel Havlin, one of the grand Cincinnati hotels of this time, but perhaps too grand for the account in question.)

At 12:30 am Girault noticed a third instar nymph on the bedspread:
[T]his nymph was pale. I killed it. After this, I looked the bed over, and finally decided not to get into it, but to lie across it after disrobing, leave the lights on and obtain such sleep as possible under the circumstances.
He left the light on. Like all of us have done.

This lasted half an hour before he saw several bed bugs crawling away from him “swollen with blood” — they were 2nd, 3rd, and 4th instars:
The time was about 1:20 A. M. Between this hour and 3:30 A. M., I dozed off from time to time, lying in the same place, but distinctly remember waking at 2 A. M. and 3:20 A. M. and discovering numerous specimens hurrying away over the coverlid. Each time I arose and killed all of the bugs in sight, and also those, which having been glutted from the host, had left it, crawled 2 or 3 feet away, and were hiding in the bed linen; these latter were discovered after a brief search, and were evidently hiding temporarily. At both of these times, the majority of the insects were in instars III and IV, but two were found in V, and one in I, the latter discovered coolly feeding from my fingers, and from its color, evidently obtaining its first meal. At 2 o’clock, I also killed one or two rather pale nymphs of about instar III, crawling toward the host. No adults were observed.
No adults. And one first instar.

At 3:30 am he called it quits and slept in a rocking chair until 6:00 am.

At 9:00 am he conducted a search of the bed and the room but could not find any bed bugs. There was a suitable crevice at the head of the bed but there were no bed bugs there either. The mattress was a hair mattress with covered springs. He thought they were hiding in the spring coverings. He found no bed bugs and no eggs.

And the previous night’s guests?
I learned through the kindness of the hotel management that the room had been occupied on Oct. 28th by two persons, but in spite of that fact, the bedbugs which I encountered did not seem to have been recently fed. Unfortunately, I could not ascertain whether the bed had been utilized, or whether they spent the night there.
Incredibly, this was not Girault’s first account of what he called “very unpleasant experiences” with old Cimex l. There’s a great deal more, as always! Hopefully we can review some of it next.

A. Arsène Girault, Notes on the Feeding Habits of Cimex lectularius Linnaeus, Psyche, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 85-87, 1908. doi:10.1155/1908/85427

Girault, cont’d

by Renee Corea on March 8, 2010

in History, Research

So there was that hotel stay in 1907—the attack, to use his word.

But two years earlier Girault had published a major article about bed bugs followed by an extensive critical bibliography, likely the entire literature of bed bugs until that time, which unfortunately I haven’t found, though surely much of it is in Usinger… but I wonder if only the useful bits and not the outlandish stuff that one really wants to find. In any case, Girault wrote several articles on the bed bug. We have time for only one.

There is this remarkable passage you should see about his “very unpleasant experiences” during a summer spent in “a small town in Virginia” (Girault studied at Virginia Polytechnic):
The whole place was thoroughly infested, and it was not an uncommon thing to see mattresses and bed-slats turned out to air, which were literally white with the insect’s eggs. The writer’s room was as bad as the rest; the old-fashioned bedstead was full of them, while during the day scores of them could be detected hiding in the walls. The place was almost unbearable, for the insects were not satisfied in staying indoors, but were frequently found secreted in one’s clothes. One night, returning to the room from outside, two were found beneath the collar, while occasionally, one would be found hiding within a pamphlet which was carried in my pocket. Wherever they were very numerous, many could be found frequenting privy-houses or other similar places, where they would be sure to obtain an occasional meal, visiting the host at every chance, night or day. That these insects are very active and freely move from place to place, that is to say, not necessarily confining themselves to certain rooms or houses, and hence not directly dependent upon any one host, is evidently true.
Remarkable, yes? Reminds me of WCW’s hat.

As if that were not vivid enough, Girault continues with this account of a colleague’s bed bug experience in an entomology lab:
Mr. William F. Fiske informed me that when stationed at Tryon, North Carolina, while working in the laboratory at night, bedbugs would crawl along the under sides of the edges of the table and stealthily approaching his bared arms, would attempt to feed.
Girault, A. A. 1905. The Bedbug, Clinocoris (=Cimex=Acanthia=Klinophilos) Lectularia Linnaeus. Psyche 12: 61-74. doi:10.1155/1905/10393

(What’s with Clinocoris… Acanthia? They couldn’t figure out what to call the bed bug at one time? Pity they didn’t ask us.)

I think Girault was having a bit of fun with the following, which he cited from an 1885 source, Lintner:
A correspondent wrote as follows: “ ‘Will you tell us something about the bed-bug, what its habits are, when it “spawns,” what it eats, how long it lives, and if it ever dies? I ask because I have moved into a house that I find was already occupied by several colonies of the pest. The room in which I have my library has the most. They are in my files of papers and periodicals. They seem to grow fatter every day, but for the life of me, I cannot tell what they live on. *******. Can it be that they live on the paste on the wall paper? As for remedies, ******. The latter (red pepper), I have sifted through my papers and books, and wherever I could get it; but instead of driving them off, they seem to fatten on it; ***************.****’ ” pp. 6-7.
And we may laugh at it too, for it is fantastic. What it eats!

Girault called bed bugs abominable. Actually, odious and abominable:
The trouble then is, that definitely stated facts are wanting concerning much of the life-history of this pest. This has doubtless been caused, partly on account of its being so common everywhere, and having an extensive literature, thus causing modern writers to believe it at first glance to be well studied, and partly because of its odious character and abominable nature. The last cause seems to have the most to do with it.
And:
It is the insect most directly affecting man, and the one, if any, which should be thoroughly studied, and yet, not until as late as 1896 (Marlatt, 1896 a) was its true life-history made known.
This is not scientific literature without personality. Girault could say of the body of a first instar that had just fed that it “became stained a very beautiful, deep, purplish red.” Nymphs are described as “sordid yellow.”

Like many, he fed bed bugs himself; except for 5th instars which caused “a distinct itching sensation,” he was not responsive to the bites. These are some of his notes on feeding bed bugs:
A single nymph or larva hatching during the morning of June 24th and isolated in a small glass vial, was fed at once. It was very active after hatching, and at first made attempts to escape, though in a few minutes readily took food. Just as soon as the least bit of blood entered the body it could be traced to its destination, and as more was sucked in, the body became stained a very beautiful, deep, purplish red. The abdomen, at first flt and round in outline, soon became distended, lengthened, and cylindric, and the nymph then measured 2.00 mm.a

On the afternoon of the next day (25th), the nymph was again fed, and the abdomen was much darker, not stained as previously. Again on the morning of July 6th, it was fed. It had not changed. On the morning of July 6th, it fed long and eagerly, until the abdomen became so large and distended that it was all out of proportion to the rest of the body; it was then stained purplish red, as after the first meal. The insect after this gluttonous meal did not lose its usual activity. The first molt then occurred about 7 P. M., 7th July. It had thus fed four (4) times during the first instar.
And his findings on feeding times for each instar:
The nymphs are very voracious, and at a single meal gorge themselves until unable to hold more. The time therefore given to each meal is limited by the capacity or size of the nymph at the time of any one meal, the capacity of course depending upon, or rather being more or less bounded by, the different instars. Hence, in each instar, the time taken for any single meal is more or less definite, shorter in the earlier, longer in the later instars, as the capacity is less in the earlier, greater in the later instars.

For its first meal after hatching, in instar I, it requires on the average, about three (3) minutes to glut itself, and if another meal is taken in this instar, a slightly longer period. In instar II, five (5) minutes; in instar III, six (6) minutes; in instar IV, eight (8) minutes; in instar V, ten (10) minutes, and when adult, from ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes. These may be taken as averages, as the time for individuals varies somewhat.
He found that adults were unable to re-feed for at least 48 hours.

This is his table detailing the lifespan and the number of eggs deposited for two females, one fed and the other unfed:

oviposition and lifespan of fed and unfed female bed bugs - Girault 1905

I think of Girault sometimes. He pops into my head. I’m glad he was in the world. And wrote about bed bugs.

 
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