Bed bugs to become bedfellows?

13 December 2017

Bed bugs to become bedfellows?

We may all need to learn to live side-by-side with bed bugs. 

That is the view of a Glasgow Caledonian University academic after she carried out a study in the south side of Glasgow.

Dr Heather Lynch said: “The experience of people in Govanhill, a locality just south of Glasgow city centre, is that once these insects (bed bugs) become endemic they are effectively impossible to remove completely.” 

Writing for The Conversation, Dr Lynch, who is on the board of Crossroads, a Gorbals-based community organisation which works in Govanhill, said that some residents she had interviewed had taken the view that the best response is to learn to live side by side with the insects and adapt.

Dr Lynch said: "Govanhill reflects the challenges and opportunities of 21st-century Europe as well as anywhere. It has become renowned in recent years for poor housing, poverty and crime – as well as for artists and vibrant community activists. And it faces major environmental issues, with constant rubbish dumping and infestations of bed bugs.”

The article mentions that in the early 1900s, the world took its lead from the “Glasgow system”,  which emphasised educating tenants about cleanliness and bed-bug behaviour, backed up with regular visits from the public health department. Now Glasgow, like other places in the world such as New York, Australia, France and China, is seeing a significant rise in bed bugs.

Govanhill has attracted numerous public initiatives worth millions of pounds, including a dedicated pest control unit that deals with hundreds of cases each year. However, Dr Lynch warns that there are few signs of this reducing the overall problem, not least because bed bugs are highly adaptive; lie dormant for extensive periods; and their reproduction cycle encourages pregnant females to move around.

The researcher describes one resident feeling ashamed and horrified by the bugs. However, having learned more about them, she eventually accepted, “reluctantly”, that they may be of the norm. Despite the efforts of the council, the problem “may be too big to solve”, Dr Lynch points out.

She added: “Having talked to many in the area, I have found this trajectory is common. Many people who have come to terms with the fact that you can’t beat bugs resign themselves to living with them instead.”

Dr Lynch concludes that the residents that have learned to live with the bed bugs may be ahead of the curve as they are adapting to their environments, rather than using environmentally harmful products. They have arrived at a lifestyle decision to live with the bugs based on their own experience and analysis, she says, instead of society always assuming it knows what’s best for people in the area.

The full article is available here

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