For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, bed bug infestations were virtually non-existent in the United States. The introduction of an insecticide known as DDT during the 1940s nearly eradicated bed bugs from the country. Unfortunately, bed bugs rapidly reemerged during the late 1990s, and today, they are one of the four most commonly managed insect pests within homes and buildings throughout the country.
In the US, DDT was the first synthetic insecticide adopted by pest control professionals in both the private and public sectors, but DDT was banned by the EPA in 1972 due to concerns over its potentially harmful effects on the environment and human health. In addition to its toxic properties, DDT had clearly been losing its efficacy as an insecticide, as cockroaches, mosquitoes, houseflies, and numerous crop pests began showing signs of DDT-resistance during the 1960s.
Houseflies were the first insects to evolve a resistance to DDT, followed by mosquitoes, German cockroaches, and eventually, bed bugs. Today it is well understood that insecticides should not serve as a primary form of pest control, as target insects will always develop a resistance to any new insecticide formulation in response to repeated exposures. Furthermore, relying solely on chemical control tactics does not address the underlying cause of insect pests infestations. There is also a high demand among consumers for medically safe and ecologically friendly pest control methods, such as high-heat treatments, botanical insecticides, insect growth regulators, silica gel, boric acid, and low-toxicity baits, just to name a few.
Shortly after the Second World War, the pest control industry emerged throughout the US, and up until around 15 to 20 years ago, the industry relied almost entirely on insecticides for combatting urban insect pests. Today, however, pest control professionals in the US practice “integrated pest management” (IPM) which is an approach to pest control that involves a combination of non-chemical tactics aimed at preventing infestations. For example, eliminating indoor conditions that are attractive and hospitable to insect pests, such as moisture, food scraps, unsanitary conditions, and clutter, will prevent insect pests from gravitating into homes.
Excluding insect pests from homes is also an important aspect of most IPM programs, and it involves the elimination of all potential entry points that insect pests can exploit to enter homes. For example, installing screens on crawl space openings and attic vents, attaching door sweeps, and sealing cracks, crevices and other entry points on the exterior walls of homes provides lasting control of insect pests within and around homes. While insecticide treatments occasionally supplement pest control programs, it is in accordance with IPM that insecticides are always considered only as a last resort.
Have you ever found bed bugs in your home?