Exploring the History of Bed Bug Infestations Across America

Bed bugs have plagued human civilizations for millennia. Fossilized bed bugs have been found at ancient Egyptian sites, and these tiny critters made appearances in ancient Greek plays by the famed writer Aristophanes. But here in America, these pests have a much shorter history. Historians believe that infestations have colonial origins, in part because Native American languages lack a word for bed bugs. It’s thought that bed bugs hitched rides across the Atlantic on ships carrying explorers and colonists. In modern times, bed bugs are making an unwelcome resurgence.

Bed Bugs in Early America

Just like diseases, pests like bed bugs rely on humans’ transportation networks to find new areas to infest. In early America, bed bugs began thriving after the development of the railroad. Travelers would often stay in hotels close to train stations. There, travelers would unintentionally acquire these pests, and go on to transport them to other cities. The infestations didn’t pass unnoticed. At the time, people tried to get rid of the pests by starting peat fires to smoke them out and sterilizing their furniture with boiling water. In the 1920s, cyanide fumigation became a popular—but dangerous—method of dealing with bed bugs.

Bed Bugs During the 1940s

The death toll from World War II wasn’t only due to warfare. Many soldiers and civilians died from diseases like malaria, typhus, and plague. In order to control the spread of diseases, the Allies used a very powerful pesticide called DDT, which was later widely used to deal with bed bugs in America. DDT was incredibly effective at curbing infestations of bed bugs and other unwelcome critters. However, it also proved dangerous for humans, wildlife, and the environment. During the 1970s, DDT was banned in the United States.

Bed Bugs in Modern America

Since the 1990s, bed bugs have been making a comeback in America. Their resurgence is due in large part to the banning of DDT. However, it’s also due to a major uptick in international travel. Today, bed bugs are often found in hotels, where they can infest the luggage of travelers, who then bring the pests back home with them.

If bed bugs have hitched a ride into your home, you need professional help to eradicate the infestation. Call Essential Pest Control at (520) 908-6251. Our highly trained team proudly serves the Tucson area and beyond.

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