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Brooke Borel on Bed Bugs

We will never eradicate bed bugs, so we must change our perspective, author says

The Brooklyn Paper

A Park Slope bed bug expert is sleeping tight without letting them bite — but the rest of us might not be so lucky.

Bed bugs have returned from the brink of extinction with a permanent vengeance, according to science journalist and Sloper Brooke Borel’s tentatively-titled forthcoming book, “Bed Bug: The Return of the World’s Most Reviled Household Pest.”

“They’re probably here to stay,” said Borel, a Popular Science contributing editor who’s giving a lecture about the pesky pests at the Brooklyn Brainery in Red Hook on June 27. “People need to have a little bit of a perception shift about them.”

Borel speaks from experience: she’s had bed bugs three times, most recently in a Greenpoint apartment she rented in 2009.

“It’s an overwhelming sense of dread,” Borel said. “You know something’s feeding on you in the middle of the night.”

Indeed, the apple seed-sized insects — which nest in mattress seams, electrical outlets and other small spaces during the day, and come out to eat at night — have been feasting on humans for millennia.

The earliest known bed bug fossils, discovered at an Egyptian archeological site, date back to 1352 BC, according to Borel. She said entomologists theorize that the six-legged critters first came into contact with man’s cave-dwelling ancestors in the present-day Middle East, and the two species have been bedfellows ever since.

“They followed us from caves to villages to cities,” Borel said.

The blood suckers were nearly exterminated after World War II, when deadly new insecticides such as DDT came on the market. But Borel said the strongest survived, producing a population of battle-tested bugs that’s been growing rapidly since the 1990s.

That means getting rid of the powerful parasites is harder than ever, Borel said. Her advice? Leave it to the pros.

“You should really hire an exterminator,” Borel said. “You shouldn’t do it yourself.”

“History of the Bed Bug” at Brooklyn Brainery [515 Court St. between W. Ninth and Huntington streets in Red Hook. (347) 292–7246. www.brooklynbrainery.com]. June 27 at 8:30 pm. $9. Advance tickets required.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

Updated 12:01 pm, June 19, 2012: Updated to remedy some mix-ups in the number of times Borel got bed bugs and the possible title of her book.
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Reader Feedback

Buck from 43215 says:
I fear the author is correct, we will be battling these pests for a long time, possibly forever. However, there is ways to fight back against them, using bed bug scent detection canine's to pinpoint where they are hiding, can really help. Companies like: http://www.bedbug-inspector.com use's mna's best friend.
June 19, 2012, 4:30 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
DDT worked well too.

It also did wonders to diminish malaria, a major killer of children in the third world.
June 19, 2012, 6:06 pm
dahai says:
Bed bug population will drop to the level of 20 years ago after the following method is well known. The video and attached texts describe how to build sticky barriers to protect top of bed, tables, chairs, clothes, and shoes. It stops bed bug bites immediately. The efficiency is so high, that you can still completely stop bites in the worst case if bed bugs continually crawl from other infested apartments to your room.

Traditional methods have extremely low efficiency. Available chemicals kill bed bugs on contact. The residue is not active. The fogger bomb has been reported as useless. DE powder slowly kills bed bugs which bite and lay eggs before they die. Each bugs lay eggs fast after meal. Those behind wall and under carpet are hard to find. The killing speed may be slower than the egg laying speed even though you wash, vacuum, and spray every day. The mattress encasement was developed from one of the worst ideas because a minor change on product design will seal all of bed bugs in a bedroom instead of sealing mattress only as shown in the video.

Why do experts never think about the sticky barrier method? The special sticky tape is patent pending; experts never had a chance to try. You can confirm this because ants can crawl on any well known sticky tapes.
To test how long bed bugs can live without food. I caught bed bugs into a glass bottle. The last one died in 3 months. Bed bugs may live one year at low temperatures without any activity. Bed dugs should die quickly at room temperatures if they actively crawl every night for seeking food when they can feel the smell of sleeping people.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTdOxn9MoPg
June 19, 2012, 6:48 pm
John from Out of State says:
Sticky tape doesn't work. Bedbugs avoid it for the most part.

What did work was Dursban (Chlorpyrifos)... that is, until the EPA decided we couldn't use it indoors anymore. The organophosphate insecticides would wipe bedbugs off the map. The pyrethroid-based insecticides don't work. They've developed resistance to it.
June 20, 2012, 7:48 am
Arnie from Midtown says:
Early detection can increase the chances of a successful eradication of the pests. We use certified canines to locate the blood suckers. By targeting the extermination to only the infected rooms it an save you money in the long run. www.bedbugdogny.com can be your best friend in this situation.
June 20, 2012, 8:30 am
Rhmaestre BCE from NYC says:
Keep the conversation going. It will be prevention through education that will control the levels of bed bug infestations. I love the picture of my book on top of the stack. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
June 20, 2012, 11:04 am
Ellen from Orlando says:
Call in the experts.... In today's economy, where most people are living paycheck to paycheck, how in the world are we suppose to be able to afford to call in the experts?! PCO's are charging too much for most people to afford their services for bed bugs. IMO, the PCO's are taking advantage of the fact the bed bugs freak most people out and some are willing to pay anything to be rid of them. So, until PCO's drop their costs, can someone please give us a way that we can take care of this problem ourselves....cost effective ways??
June 21, 2012, 12:46 pm
N Baker from Southern NH says:
It is a known fact that bed bugs originated in the middle east. Our boys have been bringing them home. It is the government's responsibility to irradicate this insect.
Aug. 12, 2012, 12:58 pm
Joe from Brooklyn says:
Ellen. Pco's are charging pennies compared to what they should charge. The Chemical,gas, to pay the tech, car insurance, pest control insurance, business licensing fees, and I could go on but basically all the over head of running a company mixed with the occupational risks and hazards of working with insects, animals feces and pesticides day in and day out. You call it expensive I say you get what you pay for. Everyone needs to feed their families and put clothes on their back. Is an honest profession.
- joe of Northeastern Exterminating in Brooklyn
Www.bedbugs-Brooklyn.com
Dec. 7, 2012, 12:34 am

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