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

We will never eradicate bed bugs, so we must change our perspective, author says
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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 [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

Ewww: Borel kept these dead bed bug specimens on hand while writing her book on the reviled pests.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham