What Causes Bed Bugs?
An explosion in the bed bug population in America over the past year has led people to wonder–what causes bed bugs? No venue is safe from the infestation, as chic upscale boutiques in Manhattan are affected just as much as rundown low-rent apartment buildings. So what causes bed bugs, anyway?
Forget what you think you know about bed bugs. The first thing most people assume when they hear about a home infested with bed bugs is that the home must be filthy. In reality, there is no connection between bed bugs and a dirty environment.
What Do Bed Bugs Eat?
We know that bed bugs’ food is blood, not dirt. Any source of blood will feed a bed bug, and as long as there’s a source of blood available to a bed bug population, it will continue to live happily in a bed or other environment.
This is how we know that bed bugs are not a sign of being poor. Wealthy people have just as much blood as poor people, and there’s no correlation between being infested with bed bugs and living in poverty.
How Do Bed Bugs Get In A Home?
Bed bugs are nature’s greatest hitchhikers. The only way a bed bug can infest your living space is to hitch a ride on someone or something they can grab on to. Having said that, don’t think that bed bugs are literally grabbing your skin and riding on in–they hardly ever stay on their host after feeding. Bed bugs are far more likely to hide in a person’s clothes and accidentally ride along to a new spot to infest.
The most common method of bed bug transit is in luggage after a person stays a night in an infested hotel room. Another common way for bed bugs to spread across a community are by infesting public spaces that attract a lot of people. They jump on their new hosts and take the ride all the way to their host’s home. Bed bugs can travel on coats, purses, scarves, or anything you carry around with you, including electronics like your iPod or your cellphone.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
Their name is a bit misleading–bed bugs don’t just live in our beds.
When a bed bug gets into your home, it first finds a safe hiding place, such as in your walls, behind the baseboard, in the wallpaper, and even in the seams of furniture. Bed bugs have even been found behind light switch plates. They appear to be attracted to electrical signals, but this is not yet well understood.
Now that the bed bugs are in your home, they start to reproduce. A very unlucky household invaded by just one pregnant female bed bug could see hundreds of new bed bugs hatch in no time. These new bed bugs then hide out in your walls or in your clothes feeding off your blood.
Since bed bugs move around by catching rides, bed bug infestations are most commonly found in places with lots of human traffic, especially in places where people move in and out a lot, such as hotel rooms, apartments, dorms, shelters, hotels, gyms, and military bases. Any space that sees a big number of people coming and going is at higher risk for bed bug infestation. The least likely place to find bed bugs are single family homes that live in a space they’ve owned for years.
Why Are Bed Bugs Coming Back?
There was a time when we thought we’d gotten rid of bed bugs, or at least gotten rid of most of them. For decades, bed bug populations were so low that many people had forgotten about them altogether. The folk song line “don’t let the bed bugs bite” was something of an oddity, as most people had never actually experienced a real bed bug.
Up until World War II, most people had bed bugs in their homes. After that war, stronger pesticides appeared on the market, such as DDT and chlordane. These pesticides were used all over the place, wiping out the bed bug population, or at least pushing it mostly underground. Decades of heavy pesticide use made bed bugs a thing of the past.
If you know the history of DDT, you know why the bed bug population is springing back. DDT and other hardcore pesticides were shown to be extremely harmful to the human population and to the Earth itself. A ban on DDT in America in 1972 was followed by a ban on chlordane in the late 80s. After these bans, people stopped using harsh pesticides in their homes, and that meant that our homes were more susceptible to bed bug infestation.
At the same time that the pesticides that killed bed bugs were banned, air travel became affordable for most Americans, and we started travelling all over the Earth. Affordable international air travel made way for people who wanted to visit remote lands where bed bugs still had a foothold.
Since most people weren’t thinking of the possibility of bed bug infestation, they took no steps to prevent bed bugs from returning with them in their luggage, clothes, shoes, and other personal articles.
Believe it or not, that’s exactly how the new bed bug infestation came to be. We wiped bed bugs out, forgot about them, then invited them right back in to a safe, DDT-free home full of the delicious blood they love to eat.
If you think you have a bed bug infestation, you have to act quickly to prevent it from spreading to other homes in your area. You should call an exterminator immediately to deal with your bed bug problem. They know the proper steps to take to rid your home of the bed bug problem, and can help you stop the spread of bed bugs in your neighborhood.
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