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Hating bedbugs: The new national obsession
After disappearing for decades, bedbugs are back, says May Berenbaum in The New York Times. And Americans are learning to despise them all over again
 
After taking a brief hiatus, bedbugs are back, and they're still universally detested.
After taking a brief hiatus, bedbugs are back, and they're still universally detested.
Corbis

"I had been a professor of entomology for 15 years before I saw my first live bedbug," says May Berenbaum in The New York Times. Thanks to synthetic organic pesticides, the pests, universally detested a century ago, had been all-but wiped out in North America by the mid-1900s. But my first bedbug, mailed to me in 1995 "by a distraught student in the Boston area who had no idea what it was," turned out to be a harbinger of doom. Riding unseen in the suitcases of global travelers, bedbugs have returned to all 50 states, "and bedbug-related calls to pest control operators are escalating at a fantastic rate." Today's bedbugs, immune to once-effective poisons and harder to exterminate, are uniting Americans in a hatred as powerful as that their ancestors endured, says Berenbaum. Here, an excerpt:

We reserve a special kind of enmity for bedbugs because, though humans generally do not like being anywhere other than at the pinnacle of a food chain, there is a particular horror associated with being consumed while relatively helpless, asleep in what should be the security of one’s own bed (or chair or couch). With bedbugs, it’s personal — unlike cockroaches, ants, silverfish and other vermin that are attracted to our possessions, bedbugs are after us. And they’re remarkably adept at circumventing our defenses: They not only attack while we sleep, but they also inject anesthetics, so as not to awaken us, and anticoagulants, so that in every 10-minute feeding they can suck in two to three times their weight in clot-free blood. ...

Perhaps the one good thing about bedbugs is that they provide a rare point of agreement that transcends race, religion, culture, nationality, tax bracket and party. It may be one of the few remaining universal truths — urban or rural, red state or blue, everyone agrees it would be great if bedbugs would disappear once more.

Read the full article at The New York Times.

 

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