Bed bugs have been around since time immemorial.
They are believed to have originated in the ancient Middle East when humans shared caves with bats. The famous philosopher Aristotle, as far back as 350 B.C.E., mentioned bed bugs in his writings. Pliny, in his Natural History, published circa 77 C.E., suggested using bed bugs to treat snake bites and ear infections. This was based on the idea that since bed bugs feed on human blood, they could drain the poisons from our bodies by sucking them out. Thankfully, we have long since disposed of such dangerous medical practices as putting bed bugs inside people’s ears.
Bed Bugs have quite a history of making human beings miserable.
They were first mentioned in the historical writings of Germany in the 11th century, in France in the 13th century and in England in late 16th century. Some historians believe that bed bugs may have become firmly established in Great Britain in 1666, hidden in the lumber that was used to rebuild London after the great fire that destroyed the city. The essential factor in the spread of bed bugs was the growth of population and the influx of people to concentrated urban environments. Another significant reason was the expansion of international shipping. This allowed many insects, animals and germs to migrate easily from one area of the world to another. The rapid development of international trade allowed bed bugs to spread from their original habitat in the Middle East until they had even reached the new world of the Americas. Bed Bugs, ever industrious, probably hitched a ride with the Pilgrims when they arrived at Plymouth Rock.
Medieval methods for dealing with bed bugs varied from pure folk lore to effective, innovative solutions.
Sadly, some of the methods used to kill bed bugs also killed human beings and damaged the environment. Many of the Medieval treatments for bed bug infestations relied on the use of herbs and plants. Black Pepper, Eucalyptus, Fly Agaric, Menthol, Cannabis, Cohosh, Mint, Henna, Cranberries and Terebinth (Turpentine) were used. Other methods included the use of certain insects that fed on bed bugs, driving bed bugs out with the smoke from peat fires and dusting the premises with Dolomite or Diatomaceous Earth. While some of these methods removed bed bug infestations, many of them were not only useless but dangerous. Using insects to kill bed bugs sometimes caused huge fluctuations of insect populations and led to the destruction of crops and native flora. There are historical mentions of houses burning down and people dying from smoke inhalation from the use of peat fires to kill bed bugs. While Diatomaceous Earth is effective in killing bed bugs, modern scientists discovered that only food grade Diatomaceous Earth is safe to use. All other forms of Diatomaceous Earth are unsafe for use around humans and can cause a serious, potentially fatal lung disease called Silicosis.
Bed Bugs continued to ruin the sleep of human beings down through the years and into the modern era.
During World War II, General MacArthur was quoted saying that bed bugs were the “greatest nuisance insect problem at military bases in the U.S.” The plague of bed bugs continued unabated until the mid 1940’s when the pesticide DDT was found to be quite useful for killing bed bugs and their eggs. DDT was so effective that bed bugs vanished from all but the most under developed nations. Unfortunately, this was only a temporary reprieve. DDT became a prime target for environmentalists and it was banned in most of the world by the end of the 20th century. With the banning of DDT, bed bugs have made a massive comeback to once again drink our blood and ruin our good nights sleep.
The current bed bug problem is affecting apartment dwellers, home owners and businesses through out the modern world.
In New York City, for example, major hotels have shut down for days at a time to deal with bed bug infestations. Not only were bed bugs invading hotel rooms but guests were taking them home in their clothing and luggage. In another well known incident, a large movie theater, also in New York City, was forced to close for two weeks and spend over $100,000 to get rid of their bed bug problem. Businesses, apartment dwellers and home owners have been forced to bear the additional expense of paying a professional pest control specialist to protect their premises against bed bugs. The actual removal of a bed bug infestation is a financial nightmare that horrifies any unlucky victim. Bed bugs are having an enormous economic impact.
Modern civilization has certainly made the bed bugs job easier.
International trade covers our entire globe with a huge network of planes, trains, trucks and ships. They all provide effective transportation for hardy bed bugs who can live for up to a year without feeding. We add to the problem with our incredible over usage of paper and plastic, both of which provide great hiding places for bed bugs. The problem is compounded by a vastly interconnected, densely populated planet with huge urban centers like Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Cairo, New York, Los Angeles and hundreds of other gigantic cities. Then mix in an over zealous environmentalist lobby that spends billions of dollars a year to do everything in its power to obstruct the use of any and all pesticides and you have created bed bug heaven. As a result we have a formula that has brought bed bugs back in full fury to once again crawl into our beds and feed on us while we sleep.