Resurgent bedbugs spread through Chicago

Almost eradicated by DDT in the ’50s, bedbugs – annoying, biting pests not shown to carry disease – seem to be making a comeback in major American cities. Colleen Mastony of the Chicago Tribune reports that bedbug complaints in that city jumped last summer and have been climbing ever since.

The problem, experts say, has been exacerbated by the economy. Landlords are slow to send exterminators. And cash-strapped neighbors seem more likely to pluck infected furniture from Dumpsters. What’s more, some suspect the bugs are spreading through used-furniture outlets and online networks such as Craigslist.

“Five years ago, it wasn’t an issue,” said Arturo DelAngel, who works the complaint hot line at the Metropolitan Tenants Organization. “Now it’s bedbugs all the time, every day.”

Mastony cites reports from New York, Boston and Cincinnati and finds that the bedbug infestations may be taking on the dimensions of a national trend.

Michael Potter, an urban entomologist at the University of Kentucky, believes that bedbugs are poised to become the country’s most pressing pest problem. “We’re going to see serious increases of this pest, and it’s going to affect a lot of people,” he said.

Scientific American gets the facts about bed bugs in its Ask the Experts feature.

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