I really find it interesting to see those who normally would be foaming at the mouth about the evils of pesticides discuss this rising plague of bed bugs on their television shows, with clear trepidation as to what should be done. The View some time back had someone from Bed Bug Central showing what to look for and what they could possibly use to protect themselves. Although they now knew that putting encasement covers over the mattress and box springs was a good thing, you could tell from their manner that they knew that this wasn’t “the” answer and that in the real world, with the regulatory realities we have to deal with…..there is no answer.
My mother is 86, so when this bedbug plague first broke out I asked her if she had them in her youth and what they did before DDT. She said that they washed everything in the house thoroughly and took everything outside and washed everything, including the springs, frames and mattresses at least twice a year. I asked if that worked and she laughed and said for a while it was better. And that is the real point. They never got rid of them entirely!
Renee Corea hosts a web site called, New York vs Bed Bugs, which has done terrific work in outlining the history of bed bugs, the extant of the problem and what needs to be done about it. I highly recommend going back into some of the much older posts. Renee did a magnificent job. Renee asked in one post what everyone thought about the advice given to a consumer by a man named Richard Fagerlund, who apparently writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle called, “Ask The Bugman”. (please read this link in order to understand the rest of the article)
No matter what anyone says…this will not work! Having said that I must say that it will work to some limited degree, but the residual impact will be little better than the heat treatments he eschews, and probably won’t kill as many bedbugs as heat treatments.
Another dimension to be considered is the amount of work involved. This will take hours to do properly and how many times will someone do this, especially in an apartment building where this type of problem is rampant? How about old people or the infirm? All of this is impossible for a large portion of the population. All of these “natural” remedies have a degree of efficacy, but they were all available in days gone by with the exception of diatomaceous earth (DE was available in the 1880’s, but not in wide use until the 1950’s), so if this stuff was so great why didn’t we get rid of them before DDT?
Everyone involved will make a lot of money, and make no mistake about it; many companies only increased their revenue this last year because of bedbugs. Let's not lose sight of reality.....until inexpensive, efficacious chemistry that is easy to use is made available to the general public this problem will not go away.
There will never be anything that could be called low cost heat. It is labor intensive; cost intensive to use and the equipment is very expensive. And afterwards there is no residual impact. The potential for re-introduction is just as great after the treatment as before. There must be some form of effective residual impact in order to have long term effect on the emerging population or those that may be re-introduced.
The efficacious, inexpensive “something” that everyone wants must be chemistry, which would include dusts. I have outlined four criteria that must be met if we are to eradicate this plague that is afflicting the nation. Let’s see if modern techniques and materials are successful in meeting these criteria.
1. Heat absolutely works on any bedbugs that remain in the immediate area.
2. Fumigation absolutely will kill every bedbug in a facility. There is nowhere to hide or escape to.
3. Vacuuming and steaming are only partially effective.
4. Current chemistry is ineffective, either totally or partially.
1. None of the above meets this criterion. Even with the use of current chemistry, so much has to be done (and more than once) that the cost starts to spiral out of control.
Available to the general public:
1. The first two can only be provided by professionals.
2. Vacuuming and steaming don’t work well in anyone’s hands.
3. The chemistry is even less effective in the public’s hands than those of professionals.
Easy to Use:So does all of this meet all four criteria? The answer is a resounding NO! Answer: Failure!
1. The more complicated to the end user the less effective the answer will be, if used at all. None of the above can possible meet this criterion.
The only solution is efficacious, inexpensive chemistry that is available to the general public and is simple to use; chemistry that will have an effective residual impact on bedbugs.
As for baits, which have made big inroads into the pest control industry; unless something really radical and serendipitous appears, gel baits will never work on bed bugs. My stand for efficacious, inexpensive chemistry available to the general public is based on history. I also feel strongly that everything that we are told should bear some resemblance to what we see going on around us. History and current events brought me to this conclusion long ago; even as I saw so many from our industry displaying “sanctimony” about pesticides and how Integrated Pest Management was the answer. Well....it hasn't worked either, especially since what constitutes IPM in bed bug control is even more ethereal than ever. My views will not change just because they aren’t part of the latest philosophical flavor of the day, and even if I am rowing against the tide….this is a tide that is changing…..and when that happens I will be in the lead.
In the end, it is the least among us who count the most. If they cannot rid themselves of this problem, the problem will never go away. The bed bug pressure placed on society's businesses and residences will be overwhelming and unending. Society’s insistence on safety at any cost has been based mostly on scares promoted by the anti-pesticide crowd, going back to the first health scare known as the Great Cranberry Scare of 1959 and they have followed this same pattern ever since.
The perspective on what is constituted safe will change as more and more issues requiring older technology emerge. Make no mistake about this; if bed bugs were vectors of West Nile Virus, the Black Death, or hemorrhagic fever this issue would have been resolved long ago.