If there is one person who can answer all of your bed bug questions, then it would be author Brooke Borel. Borel writes for Popular Science Magazine, and she has conducted her own research on the behavior and biology of bed bugs. Most of her research focuses on what attracts bed bugs to humans. In addition to studying bed bugs, Borel has recently had a book published that describes the blood sucking creatures in detail; she has also experienced bed bug infestations herself. Recently, during an interview on National Public Radio, Borel described why bed bugs disappeared for several decades only to later return stronger and more resilient than they had been before before.
During the 1940s, scientists developed one of the first synthetic insecticides. This insecticide is now banned, but it was known as DDT, and it successfully destroyed bed bug populations, as well as many other insect species. During World War II, DDT was used by the Americans and British to fend off mosquitoes that carried malaria, as well as typhus-carrying lice. After the war, DDT became available to both pest control professional and consumers. People would often spray the chemical all over their homes, and DDT was included in many wallpapers, varnishes and paints. The widespread use of DDT during this time cannot be overstated.
DDT was so effective at killing bed bugs, the generations born after World War II had not even heard of the insects, as they had been virtually wiped out. This meant that pest controllers did not know how to treat bed bug infestations when the bugs resurfaced decades later. Bed bugs were so rare during the mid to late twentieth century that most professional entomologists had never been educated about bed bugs. According to Borel, to this day, experts cannot conclusively determine how bed bugs reappeared as aggressively as they did following several decades of inactivity. Many scientists believe that there had always been small pockets of bed bugs that had slowly adapted to survive DDT and other insecticide treatments over the course of several decades. However, this does not explain why bed bug activity was nearly nonexistent for so many years. Some believe that the spike in international travel that occurred during the 1980s led small pockets of surviving bed bugs to spread to urban areas all over the world by hitchhiking on travelers.
Do you believe that researchers are getting close to developing a revolutionary new insecticide that will work as effectively as DDT initially did during the middle of the twentieth century?