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While bedbugs have been around for centuries and were common in the United States before World War II, the use of DDT virtually eliminated them in this country. But they continued to be a pest in Europe and other areas. And with the increase in world travel -- which raises the likelihood that travelers will unsuspectingly carry the bugs in their suitcases and clothing and relocate them to their homes and apartments -- along with the ban on DDT, bedbugs have made a resurgence in this country, and particularly in cities like New York that have a large number of travelers.
A bedbug can lay 500 eggs in a lifetime and can fast for a year between meals. During the day they live in the dark cracks and crevices behind woodwork, light switches and moldings and even in the seam that runs around the edges of a mattress. At night, they emerge to suck the blood of mammals like us.
Experts say they’ve heard blame pinned on many foreign ethnic groups and on historic events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Persian Gulf war to the spread of mosquito nets in Africa. Every theory has holes, and many are simply racist.
Whatever the source, the future is grim, experts agreed.
Many pesticides don’t work, and some that do are banned — though whether people should fear the bug or the bug-killer more is open to debate.
Getting rid of them can be a challenge. Aside from basically having to throw out any mattresses or other bedding that is infested, homeowners, apartment dwellers or, better yet, professional pest-control experts, must look for them behind baseboards, picture frames, window and door frames and in the dark, dusty recesses of box springs. The experts then apply a silica-gel-based pesticide like Drione to the infected areas and hope for the best.