skip to Main Content
Bed Bugs History: From Caves To Hotels

Bed bugs history is older than you think. Bed bugs have always been around us. Historians believe they might have existed well beyond the boundaries of recorded history. Bed bugs, also known as Cimex Lectularius, are part of the family of insects called Cimicidae, which are a group of insects that feed exclusively on blood. It is believed that bed bugs started as cave dwelling bugs that originally dined on bat blood. As humans began to evolve, it is also believed that the history of mankind and the history of bed bugs might have first crossed paths in the ancient Mediterranean caves where civilization first began. The relationship evolved as bed bugs switched from bat blood to human blood and eventually the bedbugs moved alongside humans as we began to form the civilized cultures that are in existence today.

Bed bugs date back to Ancient Rome and Greece as early as 400 BC where they were creating issues throughout Asia and Europe. Though generally considered as much of a nuisance in ancient times as today, they were sometimes prized for their supposed medicinal properties. Bed bugs then reached China and Italy in around 600 AD and Germany and France in the 1200’s and 1400’s respectively and in England in the 1500’s. During the 18th Century, bed bugs made their way onto American soil via ships arriving from Europe. Probably, most ships harbored bed bugs and the colonists and their belongings brought them to America. According to the American Museum of Natural History, there is no record of a Native American word for bed bugs, yet another indication of their colonial origin and yet, by the 20th Century, most Americans had seen and been bitten by bed bugs.

Traditional methods of repelling and/or killing bed bugs included the use of plants, fungi, and insects. In the mid-19th century, smoke from peat fires was recommended as an indoor domestic fumigant against bed bugs. Dusts have been used to ward off insects from grain storage for centuries, including plant ash, lime and most recently, diatomaceous earth which has seen a revival as a nontoxic (when in amorphous form) residual pesticide for bed bug abatement. It does not work just like the traditional methods didn’t and will not solve a bed bug problem.

20th century

The increase in bed bug populations in the early 20th century has been attributed to the advent of electric heating which allowed bed bugs to thrive year-round instead of only in warm weather. Bed bugs were a serious problem at US military bases during World War II. Initially, the problem was solved by fumigation, using Zyklon Discoids that released hydrogen cyanide gas, a rather dangerous procedure, as you can well imagine. And then, in the 1940s, along came DDT, a pesticide used to kill typhus and malaria carriers during World War II, which proved so effective against bed bugs that their numbers dwindled for almost 30 years.

Bed bugs resurgence

That golden era for America’s mattresses came to a halt however, when the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the chemical for its health and environmental effects. Other insecticides that had helped quell the bed bug epidemic, including chlordane and diazinon, were banned for similar reasons in the 1980s.

Bed bug infestations began making a resurgence, showing up in hotels and motels during the 1990’s. This resurgence has steadily increased; and today, the bed bug population has reached exponential numbers throughout North America. Much of this is a result of increased international travel. As well, during this time, residual pesticide applications changed, allowing these hitchhiking bugs to travel safely and freely in luggage and clothing. The third thing that has allowed this increased infestation is simply a lack of community awareness or knowledge of the bed bug and how they travel from place to place. In the last decade, bed bug calls to exterminators have nearly tripled, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association.

Today, a great deal of research has been conducted on bed bugs and the science has proven that thermal heat treatments remain the single most effective treatment to kill all stages of bed bugs, from egg to adult, effectively, economically and without chemicals.

On an end note, all those who obsessively inspect the seams of their pillowcases can take solace in one important fact: Unlike many of the pests that have run rampant throughout history—from the rats that unleashed the Black Plague on 14th-century Europe to the mosquitoes that continue to infect millions with malaria each year—bed bugs are more annoying than hazardous.

There have been no studies to date that positively demonstrate that our common bed bug transmits disease to people.

Bed Bugs Exterminator

If you want to learn more about how to get rid of bed bugs or if you think you already have a bed bug infestation and you need to exterminate them, we invite you to contact us today. It will be our pleasure to answer you questions.

Back To Top