Although bed bugs have been around for quite some time, there is a huge resurgence of these pesky creatures and many are wondering why. The answer is very simple but there are a lot of factors that play into it. Since humans are traveling at much higher rates and are living closer together in metropolitan places, bed bugs are able to infest more places through luggage and human hosts and go from one shared living space to another with ease.
Brooke Borel was a young science reporter when her Brooklyn apartment became infested with bedbugs. Three times. The experience showed her how much bedbugs can turn people’s lives upside down, and how hard they are to get rid of.
For her new book, Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, she set off on a journey of discovery to find out everything she could about this vicious little critter that has plagued humanity since before we even had beds.
Talking from her (de-infested) apartment in New York, she explains the origins of the bedbug in bat-infested caves and why they’re on the rise today, pulls the curtain back on bedbug sex, and offers practical advice for those unlucky enough to become infested.
Well, I had bedbugs in New York three times, starting in 2004. I’m a science reporter, and the second and third time, I became really interested in them and started writing short news articles about them. Reporting those, I realized there was an opportunity for a larger project because of the stories I was hearing from entomologists.
What attracts them to us?
They’re attracted to the CO2 in our breath and the heat of our bodies. Other blood feeders like the mosquito are attracted to some of the other hundreds of chemicals we emit, so it may be that they’re also detecting those. Bedbugs only eat blood, so they need us not to breed but to live.
These things are not just painful—they’re almost impossible to get rid of, aren’t they? Tell us about some of the extraordinary measures that people use.
If you’re following the instructions from a pest control operator, it still is a difficult process to go through. You have to take all of your laundry and bedding to the Laundromat and wash and dry it at high temperatures. You will also probably have to use insecticide sprays, although those are working less and less because the bedbugs have built resistance to many that we’re able to use in our bedrooms.