The number of blogs, news articles, television and radio reports, dealing with the exploding bed bug epidemic is growing almost as rapidly as the bed bug population itself. The common bed bug, Cimex, lectularius is proving to be an intimidating and formidable enemy. Many of the reports I see tout the latest and most innovative approaches to eradicating these pests from structures and modes of transportation. To be sure, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well when it comes to bed bug control. There are many measures such as heat and cold, bug sniffing dogs, traps, and steam being used to combat this pest. In spite of all the resources being thrown at the problem, it continues to increase at an alarming pace. We’re in a war and the bugs are winning! The problem, in my estimation is that there are currently no reliable, long-term residual measures available to prevent infestation or re-infestation, beyond individual diligence and vigilance. Because there are no adequate prevention methods currently available, an infestation can be removed from a location one day and a new one can start the next day. In reality, all it takes to create this scenario is someone entering the building with one fertile female bed bug in his or her belongings or clothing. There is literally no way to stop it and when it happens, the whole process starts all over again.
If the bed bug epidemic continues to grow at an exponential rate and becomes a pandemic, literally millions of homes, businesses, modes of transportation, etc. will be affected and require bed bug control. With this in mind, here are some questions for environmentalists and all of us, to consider: When all of these places are treated, items that can’t be treated, such as computers, televisions, radios and other electronic devices must be discarded. Clothes must be laundered in hot water or dry-cleaned. In many cases mattresses must be thrown away. So must carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture and other household items. When you get right down to it, as the infestation reaches pandemic proportions throughout the country we will be spending billions of dollars, wasting huge amounts of resources and massively increasing our waste stream. What effect is all of this going to have on our environment? How much demand will be placed on our natural resources because of the need to replace lost household belongings? How much more electricity and gas will be required to heat homes in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours to eradicate the bugs and what impact will it have? And then there’s all the laundering of clothes in hot water and drying at high temperatures, dry cleaning of items that can’t be washed and the discarding and replacement of clothing that can’t be dry cleaned or hot washed & dried. Think about it. As this infestation continues to increase exponentially so will the demand for the resources needed to combat it in millions of locations. These actions will necessarily have an impact on our environment. For all who are convinced that climate change is an issue, do you think all of this will impact the levels of CO2 and other green house gases in our atmosphere? It seems that, no matter what approach we take to the bed bug issue, we impact the environment. Perhaps in terms of total ecological impact and in the interest of gaining the upper hand, we would be better off temporarily returning to some of the older, more effective treatment methods, excluding DDT, until suitable substitutes are developed. Chemicals are not the entire answer however they can be important assets in this war on misery. My suggestion is that we allow the use of older materials for this specific problem and rotate their use to reduce the resistance factor. But then again, the self-anointed guardians of our environment may be more comfortable with avoiding chemicals, at all costs and letting us simply go back the normal and natural state of humans throughout our history. That state is one of being parasite-infested and miserable. Strictly speaking, if the main concern is the environment, this would be the most environment-friendly and ecologically sound approach. Wouldn’t it?