Bed Bug History: Origins of the Pesky Pests

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We’ve all heard the phrase before, probably not paying too much attention to it when it was said. As the bed bug populations have stabilized and they continue to move around, you may encounter bed bugs more frequently, giving the phrase more weight. Bed bugs are known for hitching rides in various ways, such as resting on objects like books and suitcases and going where those objects’ owners go. Keep reading to learn more about bed bug history, and how they became the pests they are today

bed bug history

Bed bug Origins

The bed bug first emerged as a species of cimicidae over 100 million years ago. To put that into perspective, butterflies only date back about 50 million years—half the time of the bed bug. At some point, the bed bug latched onto the human as its preferred host and the rest, as they say, is history.

According to entomologist, Dr. Michael Potter, fossils of bed bugs date back about 3,500 years. The bed bug as we know it today has a long history, going back thousands of years, even into ancient Greek times when Aristotle was around. Ancient methods of included leech treatments and fumigation by burning sulfur. Interestingly enough, some believed that bed bugs had medicinal properties, able to help with common ailments.

In Western cultures, bed bugs began to be mentioned from the 11th century onward, with the first mention in England coming in the late 1500s. Even back then, bed bugs were a noted nuisance, with people employing the methods they could to repel them.

Bed bugs are thought to have made their way into the United States with travelers—something you may have guessed given bed bugs current affinity with travelers as well. This was before the United States was even the United States; bed bugs came over with European explorers, which is why there are no indigenous words for bed bugs. Since then, they took root and were able to grow in population as the country developed. That is until the technologies mentioned in the next section helped to all but eliminate the population.

As mentioned, bed bugs are creatures with ancient origins and thousands of years of history. This section is just a brief overview of the long history of the pesky bed bug. For more in-depth detail of bed bug history, check out Dr. Potter’s review paper titled The History of Bed Bug Management, published in The American Entomologist in 2011.

Bed bug Resurgence

In the 1940s and 1950s, with the introduction of new cleaning technology, improved hygiene, DDT and other new pesticides, bed bugs almost became a pest of the past. Many postulate that technologies such as vacuums played a part in making it easy to keep homes cleaner. Additionally, newer, modern furniture gave bed bugs fewer places to hide than they had in the past. It wasn’t until recently, even the last two decades or so, that bed bugs have seen a resurgence. There are a couple supposed reasons for this, including:

● Increased travel: With more people traveling to and from areas where bed bugs were still common, more people are interacting with hotels where bed bugs may be hiding. And when those people travel home, they may not realize a bed bug has come back with them on their clothes, books, or suitcases.
● Lack of knowledge and vigilance: After bed bugs were almost eliminated in the 1950s, there was less of a reason to keep a close eye out and know the signs or how to check for them. It is possible that this lowered public knowledge helped bed bug populations resurge.

Bed bugs Today

Bed bugs today can be found all across the United States, exhibiting many of the same tendencies they’ve been showing for thousands of years: Hiding in cracks and crevices on beds (or other furniture) and feeding on humans. While bed bugs don’t spread harmful diseases like ticks are known to do, they can still cause itchy bites, rashes, and mild allergic reactions. While they are notoriously difficult to get rid of, it’s not impossible.

If you find yourself dealing with an infestation of bed bugs, contact Terminix today. Terminix offers best-in-class services to get rid of bed bugs. A Terminix pest professional will inspect the area to examine the extent of the infestation and then offer solutions such as removing visible bugs, and or applying treatment to kill any unseen bugs or eggs.


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