Virtually unheard of for decades, bedbugs are now making a fierce comeback around the country, including New England. “The problem is astronomical. Every phone call is about bedbugs,” says Galvin Murphy, president of Yankee Pest Control in Malden, Massachusetts. “We’ve been in every community in Eastern Massachusetts, without exaggeration, doing a bedbug investigation or eradication. We’re seeing them everywhere –multiple-unit buildings in condos, apartments and hotels. We’ve worked in a hospital maternity ward, nursing homes, dialysis centers, movie theaters, and some of the most plush single-family homes that we have in the Boston area, as well as low-income housing authorities.”
Just the possibility of a bedbug infestation has spooked condos, which are worried about plummeting property values if word gets out, says Galvin, who has painted his bedbug service vehicles a generic white because of customer concerns. “None of our bedbug trucks have lettering on them. Our regular fleet all has our logo – Yankee Pest Control – on it. But anything to do with bedbugs, we haven’t been marking any of those trucks up.”
While bedbugs were a common problem in the United States around the World War II era, they were virtually eradicated from existence with the wide-scale use of pesticides, such as Malathion and DDT, says Bill Cowley, owner-operator and vice president of Cowley’s Termite & Pest Services in Neptune City, New Jersey. They re-emerged in the U.S. in the late 1990s, and have been multiplying ever since.
According to Cowley, “Their secretive behavior, coupled with a lack of public awareness, has enabled this insect to move very efficiently from one dwelling to another, and has facilitated their rapiddispersal throughout the country.”
There are a few other reasons why bedbugs have gotten so out of control in recent years. In the late 1990s, international travel became a lot less expensive, so Americans began to travel much more frequently. In previous years, hotel guest rooms were typically treated on a regular basis with residual pesticides. But those pesticides aren’t used anymore because they were determinedto be a risk to human health.