Bed bugs have been a problem for humans for thousands of years. And until the 1940’s with the invention of DDT and similar pesticides, they were just a fact of life.
In ancient Greece, bed bugs were thought to have medicinal properties for treating ear infections and snake bites and were used medically until at least the 18th century for treatment of hysteria (I have a feeling that didn’t work out so well).
Here is a scientific drawing from 1860 of the parts of the bed bug:
Abraham Lincoln definitely had his share of encounters with bed bugs, if not in the White House (there’s nothing about that), in hotels and inns. Michael Burlingame, in his book Abraham Lincoln: a life, Volume 1, writes that President Lincoln had some experience with bed bugs, but did not complain:
“He was a ‘most perfect gentleman’ to his hosts and their families and servants. ‘Others would growl—complain—become distressed and distress others—with the complaints and whine about what they had to eat—how they slept—and on what and how long—and how disturbed by fleas, bed bugs or whatnot.’ Only rarely Lincoln would voice displeasure with the food. ”
I expect that Mr. Lincoln, like everyone until 1950 or so, just accepted that some times and places, you would have to deal with bed bugs and that was that. I’m glad it’s not like that today, aren’t you?
What did they use to try to treat bed bugs before DDT? Lots of things: plants, fungi, and insects, black pepper, black cohosh, eucalyptus oil, henna, tobacco, turpentine, wild mint, geranium, cannabis and many others. In the mid-19th century, they tried smoke from peat fires. Dusts have been used including “plant ash, lime, dolomite, certain types of soil, and diatomaceous earth (Wikipedia). Sounds like people were pretty desperate, not unlike now.
DDT worked very well eradicating bed bugs, but was found to be extremely toxic to our environment in other ways and was banned in the US in 1972. Since then, bed bug populations have become increasingly resistant to pesticides.
What is the best way to get rid of a bed bug infestation? Research has shown that high temperatures are the most reliable and safest method of bed bug eradication. A building is sealed up and then interior temperatures are raised to 130 degrees or higher for 2-3 hours, killing any pests inside at every stage of development. Alliance Environmental Group uses ThermaPureHeat to treat areas, rooms, apartments, homes and entire buildings for bed bugs, without any dangerous chemicals or their residue, without the need to bag food or wash linens and without needing to stay out of the building for days, waiting for pesticides to dissipate.
One ThermaPureHeat treatment is all it takes to kill eggs, nymphs and adult bed bugs—there is no fear of a resurgence later and the need for repeating the treatment.
If you discover a bed bug infestation anywhere in California, please contact us. We have teams ready to help quickly, efficiently and professionally, putting your mind totally at rest.
I still can’t believe they used bed bugs to treat hysteria! Bed bugs would MAKE me hysterical!
Next time: a video showing bed bugs freaking out from high temperatures!
Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for Alliance Environmental Group and AirTek Indoor Air Solutions. She welcomes your comments! For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! For updates on indoor air challenges, Like us at AirTek on Facebook!