Bed bugs have been with mankind for as long as mankind has existed. Records about bed bugs are available that go back 4000 years to ancient Egypt, and archeologists have artifacts that show they are “identical to the present day pest.” Since they took the time to talk about them in ancient Egypt I think that we can reasonably assume that they didn’t like them any more than we do today. Historians have noted that manuals for their elimination have existed for centuries. In 1730 there was “A Treaties of Buggs” where the author recommended a “liquor” for their destruction.
In 1777, "The Compleat Vermin-Killer," recommended "to fill the cracks of the bed with gunpowder and light it on fire." Sounds silly I know, but people do silly things when they are desperate. An Ohio man set his apartment building on fire because he attempted to rid his apartment of bed bugs using alcohol while smoking a cigarette. Somehow I don’t think burning down houses is the answer we want.
My mother is now 86 and she said that when she was a child they took everything outside twice a year and the scrubbed everything down, including the house, the bedding, springs and slats. Harry Katz (a pest control legend) remembers his mother roasting them with candles. Some used coal oil soaked rags. Did it work? My mother said it was good for a while, but they returned…then defensively she proclaimed, ‘everyone had them!’. And she was right. When the boys came back from WWII bed bugs were ubiquitous. Why? Because they were here when they left! Does anyone really think that more education or “outreach” would have made any difference to those people? Do we really think this would have made a difference in the 18th century? This went on for thousands of years without any real relief until DDT.
The answer in 1946 was effective, inexpensive, easy to use chemistry that was available to everyone. We, as the pest control industry played our role, but it was the public’s ability to “do it yourself” that rid the nation of bed bugs. This was the first time in human history that any society was able to do it. When resistance to DDT developed in bed bugs we shifted to organophosphate and carbamate category pesticides. The record of success continued until 1996 when the Food Quality Protection Act was passed and forced viable, safe and effective pesticides, such as Dursban and Ficam, off the market through regulations. They were not banned.
So what has the EPA done to fix this problem? Are they working to bring back pesticides that work? We should want to know, because they are directly responsible for this continuing and expanding plague? They offer layers of bureaucracy, more inter-communications between bureaucracies…..and they award grant money....but for what?
On April 6 it was announced that “EPA has awarded five grants totaling $550,000 for bedbug education, outreach and environmental justice projects. The projects supported through these grants will be designed to build broad, results-oriented partnerships for education and outreach programs to reduce bed bug infestations in communities disproportionately exposed to environmental risks. In addition, these awards are intended to support a diverse set of outreach and education projects designed to provide models and examples of outreach and education programs that can be used by other communities in their fight against bed bugs.” George Orwell would have been impressed at this heightened level of “newspeak”.
The recipients of the five grants are:
1. University of Missouri St. Louis -- $89,074, over 12 months
2. Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A and M University -- $76,358, over 24 months
3. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene -- $142,440, over 24 months
4. Rutgers University -- $99,688, over 19 months
5. Michigan Department of Community Health -- $142,440, over 24 months
Each university had different specifics for which they were responsible; but I organized the information as concisely as I could below. The goals and actions were to:
Set up educational outreach programs to teach public employees and migrant workers, “organizations and businesses that serve low-income residents, transitional housing managers, vendors of secondhand goods, health care providers and local pest product suppliers” to see bed bugs and report them. Promote “monitoring, mattress encasements, structural modifications to reduce harborage and facilitate inspections; quarantine protocols and treatment of belongings and furniture with a portable heat unit; limited use of insecticides to treat cracks, crevices and voids in areas that cannot be treated with physical or mechanical control methods may be conducted as well, but not with grant funding.” Heaven forbid that grant money should be used on pesticides!
Train people to use “reduced-risk and non-chemical methods of control that residents can use in their own homes, including: steam cleaning, drying fabric items on high heat, reducing clutter, using mattress encasements, and installing bed bug interceptors.” And set up “sustainable” IPM programs.
I will say this now so I won’t have to repeat it later; there is no such thing as IPM in structural pest control and that is why the EPA is failing to stop this plague. Please read my four part series, The Pillars of IPM.
They go on to say that one university “will focus on community participation, early detection, maximization of cultural and non-chemical control practices, and judicial use of low toxicity insecticides (funded through another means) to provide sustainable management of bed bug infestations. Effectiveness of the program will be measured through monitoring of all apartments and documenting pesticide usage and changes in management practices periodically over a one-year period. “
Then there are to be more task forces, bed bug working groups, a bed bug “toolkit” “for use by local governments to address tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities and the local authority to enforce laws and regulations; and lastly, developing an electronic surveillance and reporting system for bed bug infestations…..”
EPA claims that “Collaboration and communication among all stakeholders are critical to minimizing cost and maximizing control at the community level. Through this grant project, EPA is making funds available to facilitate this interaction and collaboration.”
Inter-bureaucracy and community communication outreach programs will not get rid of the problem. I don’t care how many task forces, or bed bug working groups you organize, or how may IPM programs with “low toxicity” pesticides you promote, or how many “alternative” treatment methods you promote, or how much public education outreach you promote, I don’t care how many landlords, social workers or migrants you train….these schemes will not rid the nation of bed bugs.
The EPA just spent over a half a million dollars to promote the very things that have allowed this plague to get out of control, and didn’t put one dime into research for effective chemistry; which it the only answer. That was the answer in 1946 and it will be the answer in 2011 or there will be no answer. I said that in 2010 and I was right. They didn’t return effective chemistry to us then and there was no answer in 2010. Why do we tolerate such nonsense?
We live in an age where we are unwilling to stand up and say enough is enough. These are nothing more than regulatory bullies who continue to pursue policies that created the problem in the first place. Then they demand that we keep doing the same things that not only created the problem, but continue to exacerbate it. So what is this grant money really for? This is no different than many of the studies promoted by EPA; conclusions in search of data. And up until now they have been winning! Why? Because our industry did not take as strong enough stand against them!
By forcing so many viable products off the market with their regulatory schemes the EPA has finally hoisted itself on its own petard. Furthermore, Congressional representatives are questioning what they do and why they are doing it. So now the EPA is desperate to show they are on top of this problem; so they promote expensive ineffectual studies; high sounding "Bed Bug Summits", and programs that look and sound impressive; but they are failing because rhetoric doesn't kill bed bugs, and neither does anything they are promoting with this grant money.
Ohio has been at the forefront in demanding effective chemistry. Pesticide applicators have not only been vocal within our industry, we have been vocal to our state legislators and our representatives in Congress. Ohio pest controllers refuse to look the other way when it comes to pesticide issues and as a result we have made substantial progress in creating allies with legislators and regulators, and the people. We have won the battle of facts; we always have. They have won the battle of emotion; they always have. In order to win the war we have to win the battle of facts and the battle of emotion. This is our opportunity!
Yes, science is following the government money, and it’s a problem in all industries. We’ve totally distorted science, not all of it, but certainly at the university level. They know they have to say what the government wants to hear in the grant proposal process in order to get their money. U.S. EPA rules the roost, and if they’re not out to prove or say bad things about chemicals of all kinds, they won’t likely get the money. Interview With Dr. Jay LehrWe cannot cede the moral high ground to the activists and their allies in government. We have the answers. We are the experts. We are part of that thin gray line that stands on the wall and says; no one will harm you on my watch. We are the ones protecting the health, food and property of the nation. We are the answer!
Effective, inexpensive, easy to use chemistry that is available to everyone will rid the nation of this problem. If that isn’t the answer then there will be no answer. Those are the facts, and they are undisputed. History has absolutely shown that this is factual beyond any doubt. This must be emphasized to the public in an organized campaign. The public must be made to know that this plague is a government created plague and this really is one time the government can fix it. By giving society back the tools they took away.
The EPA should be held to the same standard as they hold everyone else. They must be made to perform based on science and not on green philosophy, and if they are unwilling then action must be taken against them legislatively and legally.
For some reason I keep seeing a quote from Albert Einstein that says to keep doing the same thing over and over again and to expect a different result is a form of insanity. If that is true, then the EPA must really be insane.
Bedbug Summit: Activity As A Substitute For Accomplishment
The Butterfield Bill: Activity As A Substitute For Accomplishment, Part II
Second EPA Bed Bug Summit: Activity As A Substitute For Accomplishment, Part III
My Bed Bug Series contains more information.