Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Why Billions of Bed Bugs are Biting
By Alan Caruba
After decades during which bed bugs were a rare event, they now make headlines infesting places from the Jersey City Goldman Sacks building to a Victoria’s Secret shop on New York’s Upper East Side, along with dormitories, apartments and homes throughout the nation
The bed bug explosion is more related to the loss of the means to exterminate them than the bugs themselves. The bed bugs are doing what all insect populations do; they are reproducing by the billions.
On August 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a “consumer alert” whose sole purpose was to continue its drumbeat of fear regarding any use of pesticides and to imply that pest control professionals could not be trusted to help one rid themselves of this ubiquitous pest.
All pest control professionals are subject to state licensing and annual certification to ensure they receive training in the proper methods of applying pesticides. Many firms conduct in-house training sessions year-round and the profession’s trade associations provide seminars as well. Suffice to say that everything about the provision of pest control services is highly regulated.
Since its founding in 1970, the EPA has dedicated itself to banning as many pesticides as possible. Its first “victory” was the banning of DDT in 1972. The result has been upwards of 90 million deaths from malaria worldwide. The truth is that DDT saved more lives than any chemical in human history until being banned from use in the U.S. and by other nations.
I have worked with the pest control industry for a quarter century and in the 1980s I helped promote an extraordinary pesticide, Ficam, a product that effectively killed a wide range of insect pests and was applied with nothing more dangerous than water!
After years of safe use, the EPA told the manufacturer that it had to re-register the product. Having previously spent around $15 million for the original registration, the British-owned company did the math and concluded it would be too expensive to go through the process again. It is no longer available in America.
The EPA’s action had nothing to do with the efficacy of the pesticide. It had everything to do with its unspoken policy of driving pesticides off the marketplace, whether for use by pest control professionals, for agricultural use, or by the general public.
And that is why America is experiencing a bed bug epidemic.
According to a joint statement on bed bug control from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the EPA, “Though the exact cause is not known, experts suspect the resurgence is associated with increased resistance of bed bugs to available pesticides…” and other causes such as greater international and domestic travel.
One pretty good guess at the “exact cause” is the continued loss of pesticides with which to knock down insect and rodent populations that nature provides in the billions.
In the “Bed Bug Handbook”, a guide for pest control professionals, “People often assume that any EPA-registered product that has bed bug treatment instructions on its label must be effective at controlling bed bugs. But this is not necessarily true. EPA policy is to rely on market forces to ensure that a product does what it claims; the agency does not require efficacy testing.”
The EPA and countless “environmental” organizations have effectively “educated” Americans to be afraid of chemicals in general and pesticides in particular. The claim is that they pose a threat to people’s health and this is true if one drinks them direct from the container. All poisons are based on the “dose”, the amount of exposure and, in the hands of a pest management professional, that factor will be very-low-to-none.
Today’s pest management professionals go about their job using the principles of Integrated Pest Management. High on the list is the least use of pesticides to knock down a pest population.
Ask yourself why, a hundred years before the invention and widespread use of pesticides, was an American’s average life span was about forty years of age? Given the use of pesticides, why do we now live up to eighty years? The answer is that pesticides protect lives and property too.
There is no real logic behind the EPA’s continued efforts to ban pesticides, but there is an illogical, unreasoned, and a lot of very dubious “science” behind the relentless effort to deprive Americans of the protection pesticides provide.
As I frequently remind people, take away the pesticides and all you have left is pests.
In the case of bed bugs, you have a particular pest that is very difficult to eliminate without a lot of intensive effort and the need to return to the scene of the infestation to get at those bed bugs that were hidden away between blood meals and will survive, become active, and lay eggs that become nymphs in a new generation to be exterminated.
It should come as no surprise that the joint CDC-EPA statement was heavy with warnings about “pesticide misuse” and “greater risk of pesticide exposure for those living in a home.”
The advice offered is laughable. It recommends using “monitoring devices” when most people learn about a bed bug infestation when they get bitten!
The statement recommends “removing clutter where bed bugs can hide”, “vacuuming”, and “using non-chemical pesticides (such as diatomaceous earth” and, finally, “judicious use of effective chemical pesticides” as the last choice.
The message is that it is the pesticides that are the problem, not the bed bugs. The reason we have seen a bed bug explosion is that the EPA has eliminated many of the pesticides that were formerly in use, creating the perfect storm, a growing resistance to those still registered for use.
The bed bugs don’t care that a generation or two of Americans have been brainwashed to think pesticides are bad, but you should.
© Alan Caruba, 2010