Bed bug infestations are only getting worse — here’s why they’re so hard to kill

  • Bed bugs can stow away on your clothes, bags, and mattresses, infest your home, and lay thousands of eggs in the process.
  • They feed on human blood and swell to twice their body weight.
  • Despite our best efforts, bed bugs are hard to kill and infestations are only getting worse.
  • Part of the problem is that bed bugs are developing resistance to pesticides, and experts worry we’re running out of options.

The children were right. A gruesome creature lurks under your bed. And yes, it wants to suck your blood…swelling to twice its size in the process.

Its name? Cimex lectularius — aka the common bed bug.

Turns out these creatures have tormented humans for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians, for example, used spells to try and fight the insect hordes. But to no avail. And while our weapons have come a long way since spell casting … we’re struggling more than ever to fend off these pesky pests.

In the 20th century, humans developed a new weapon against the bed bug. Toxic chemicals. Pesticides like DDT nearly wiped out entire populations in most Western countries. But even that wasn’t enough. By the turn of the millennium, bed bug populations resurged worldwide. And this time, they had new weapons against us. Like 15% thicker skin — to better protect against harmful pesticides. And enzymes called esterases and oxidizes. Which break down common insecticides, making them useless. In fact, researchers worry we’re running out of effective insecticides!

If that’s not terrifying enough, consider this: Just a few bed bugs can quickly turn into a dangerous infestation. Let’s say a single female spots you in the local movie theater … and hitches a ride home on your clothes. Here’s the problem: She’s pregnant. And will lay hundreds of eggs. Within just a few months, that lonesome bed bug can turn into thousands.

But most victims won’t even notice until it’s too late. Since their flat, plate-like bodies let bed bugs vanish into impossibly tight nooks and crannies. So it’s no wonder infestations are out of control! From 2004 to 2009, the New York City council reported a 2,000% increase in bedbug complaints! And although they don’t transmit disease, bed bug bites are bad news.

In one case, a 60-year-old man needed to be hospitalized for blood loss. Bed bugs can also trigger itchy rashes, which can cause skin infections at best … and deadly allergic reactions at worse. The good news is you CAN rid your home of these pests. Experts recommend hiring professional exterminators to heat your home to extreme temperatures.

The bad news? You’ll have to shell out $800 to $1,200 a pop to clear your apartment.

So until we discover a safe but cheaper way to take out every last one…it won’t be so easy to sleep tight and not let the bed bugs bite.

by Gina Echevarria and Shira Polan  Dec. 28, 2018

BedBugs reported in some of NYC’s swankiest hotels. They were always there; and it’s getting worse. More important to follow as BedBugs transmit deadly Chagas disease.

February 8, 2016 | by Leonard Greene | New York Daily News
It’s not just the fleabags and flophouses.

Bedbugs have been reported in some of the city’s swankiest hotels with a list that includes the Waldorf Astoria the Millennium Hilton and the New York Marriott Marquis.

According to the Bedbug Registry, a nationwide database of bedbug reports and complaints, bedbug sightings in New York hotels have jumped more than 44 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.
Google Maps Street View

The Millenium Hilton at 55 Church Street in New York New York.

The data focused on establishments that are members of the Hotel Association of New York City.

Of the 272 association members, 65 percent, or 176 members, have had a guest file at least one complaint about bedbugs at the property.

NR

Michelle Bennett/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

Taxi cabs outside Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Eighteen hotels had a combined 363 complaints, representing 42 percent of all bedbug complaints.

“I stayed in room 2306 for one night,” a Millennium Hilton guest wrote in a complaint to the hotel in 2014. “I found blood on my sheets and a live bug on my bed. I ended up with 60 plus bites.”

At the Times Square Doubletree guest said a stay there last year left hundreds of bite marks on the face, neck arms and hands.

“Extreme case of bed bug attacked on my entire upper body,” the guest wrote.” Went home to Florida a day early and ended up in my local emergency room.”

Research Entomologist Jeffrey White shows off some bedbugs at a informational bedbug conference at 201 Mulberry Street in Manhattan Wednesday.

Warga, Craig/New York Daily News

Last month, a California couple posted a YouTube video about their $400-a-night Central Park hotel room nightmare. The couple found dozens of bedbugs beneath their mattress at the Astor on the Park Hotel.

Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the hotel association, said hotels in New York are addressing the issue.

“Bedbugs are a global issue that extend beyond hotels,” Linden said.

”Every member of the Hotel Association of NYC that we are aware of has an active anti-bedbug program in place. If a problem arises, it is dealt with immediately and effectively.”

Scientists who recently studied the bloodsucking creatures in the city’s subway system discovered a genetic diversity among bedbugs depending upon the neighborhood where they were found.

They said the discovery could lead to better insecticides.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Watch this BedBug go from flat to FAT

FYI – A 2014 Penn State Study confirms that Chagas CAN be transmitted by bed bugs and that bed bugs carry 40 other pathogens and MRSA.  ~A. Steiner~

February 8, 2016 | Christopher Terrell Nield | The Conversation
The bedbug problem is getting worse. Infestation horror stories have popped up in most major cities and a pest control team was even asked recently to exterminate bedbugs on an offshore oil rig.

We tend to associate bedbugs with dirty living conditions, but this is a myth – they don’t actually choose dirty homes over clean ones.  Unusually for many blood-sucking insects, bed bugs haven’t (yet) been implicated in spreading disease to the humans they bite, so that’s one small thing in their favour, though they are suspected of carrying organisms that cause leprosy, oriental sore and the bacterial brucellosis, and may be able to transmit Chagas disease.

After feasting on human blood the same bedbug goes from flat (00:25) to fat (3:25).

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES

Announcement: Bedbug Genome Assembled

Bed_Bugs_CommentarayScientists have assembled the first complete genome of bedbugs, which existed in some form even before humans were around to invent beds.

February 2, 2016 | by Elizabeth Kolbert | The New Yorker

In the great contest that is life, the common bedbug, Cimex lectularius, qualifies as a winner. This is true not just in the Donald Trumpian sense of being extremely difficult to get rid of but in the long-term evolutionary sense of surviving multiple geological epochs. A creature that looked very much like a bedbug was scuttling around during the time of the dinosaurs; a sort of proto-bedbug has been found in amber that’s almost a hundred million years old. It’s not clear what that bug fed on, but it’s believed that long before modern humans—and therefore beds—existed, Cimex lectularius sucked on bats’ blood. When humans took to living in caves, bedbugs descended from the bats and began feeding on people. (There are still bedbugs that prefer bats, and scientists have proposed that the lineage that prefers humans is in the process of becoming a separate species.)

Today, researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine announced that they had assembled the complete genome of Cimex lectularius. The same team is working on the cockroach genome; both projects are part of an effort to better understand so-called “living fossils.” A paper on the bedbug genome is appearing today in the journal Nature Communications.

“Bedbugs are one of New York City’s most iconic living fossils,” George Amato, one of the paper’s authors and the director of the museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, noted. The bedbug genome turns out to consist of almost seven hundred million base pairs. This is significantly larger than the fruit-fly genome (a hundred and twenty million base pairs), but not nearly as large as the locust genome (six billion base pairs). In addition to sequencing the bedbug’s genome, the researchers also looked at gene expression over the bug’s life cycle, which spans five instar stages. From this, they concluded that the “first blood meal of the bedbug is the most dynamic period of the bedbug’s transcriptional activity.”

Bedbugs are so-called true bugs. Members of this group also include cicadas, aphids, and leafhoppers, and all share a common arrangement of mouthparts. As anyone who has suffered an infestation knows, bedbugs use their mouthparts, or proboscises, to seek out blood vessels. Then they inject anticoagulants into their victims, to prevent themselves from, in effect, choking. The researchers found that bedbugs possess several classes of genes that code for anticoagulant proteins, including for proteins usually associated with snake venom. This doesn’t mean that bedbugs are any more closely related to snakes than other insects, just that they’ve come up with some of the same strategies.

“What we’re really finding is a structural motif—something about the sequence of amino acids that is probably involved in preventing blood from clotting in the same way a snake venom protein is, but doesn’t share an evolutionary history,” Mark Siddall, another author of the paper and a curator at the Museum of Natural History, explained.

The ancient Greeks were already complaining about bedbugs in the fifth century B.C.; references to bedbugs appear in Aristophanes and then in Aristotle. The bugs seem to have travelled with humans along ancient trade routes; by the seventh century A.D., they were in China, and by the eleventh century in Germany. From Europe, bedbugs migrated to North America and Australia with the colonists.

Bedbugs suffered a population crash in the mid-twentieth century, with the introduction of pesticides like D.D.T. But they have since evolved resistance to many of the chemicals used against them, and their numbers have roared—or, if you prefer, snuck—back up. A recent study by researchers at Virginia Tech and New Mexico State University found that bedbugs have already evolved resistance to neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that has been in use for only twenty years or so. (The study shows that it takes something like five hundred times the amount of neonicotinoids to kill bedbugs from populations that have been exposed to the chemicals as it takes to kill bugs from populations that have never been exposed.) The researchers who put together the bedbug genome identified several genes that may be involved in pesticide resistance; this information could potentially be used to create more effective bug killers.

“It turns a light on for people to begin in a logical way to explore these areas that we’ve identified,” Amato said.

By combining the information from the genome with information from DNA swabs taken from New York City subway stations, the researchers were also able to map relationships among the city’s bedbug populations. This effort suggests that even bedbugs have a hard time getting across Manhattan.

“We found more north-south connectivity for the bedbugs than we found east-west,” Siddall observed. “And that’s reflecting what we already know to be true.”