I have had one nasty personal experience with these fast-spreading bloodsuckers, and hope to never have another. Alas, that may be an unrealistic hope, given how they are spreading all over the world. According to the BBC, the last big outbreak happened before World War II: “[i]n the 1930s there were large swaths of London where every house was infested.” Eradication with DDT after 1946 pushed that outbreak back, but such pesticides are restricted now because of their health and environmental effects.
Apparently, bedbugs have also grown resistant to DDT, so bringing it back probably wouldn’t help address the current problem. The pesticides currently used for bedbugs may be losing effectiveness, as the creatures become resistant. Increased domestic and international travel may also contribute.
Personally, I have taken to adopting a few precautions:
- When staying in hostels and hotels, I check for the fecal spots, moults, and blood smears they leave behind, especially when there is a severe infestation (as there is at the Sous Bois Hostel in Montreal).
- Keeping luggage off the floor and away from upholstered furniture is also a good idea.
- When I found that I had stayed somewhere with bedbugs, I put everything I had with me through either a high temperature wash or three weeks of sub-zero temperatures.
- I will no longer purchase or accept used furniture.
Thankfully, these horrible creatures don’t seem to spread disease. They are revolting, however, and extremely expensive and difficult to eradicate. As such, it pays to be cautious.