They crawl, they bite, they’re baffling!

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the common bedbug as merely a pestiferous six-legged blood-sucker. Think of it, rather, as Cimex lectularius, international arthropod of mystery.

In comparison to other insects that bite man, or even only walk across man’s food, nibble man’s crops or bite man’s farm animals, very little is known about the creature whose Latin name means — go figure — “bug of the bed.” Only a handful of entomologists specialize in it, and until recently it has been low on the government’s research agenda because it does not transmit disease. Most study grants come from the pesticide industry and ask only one question: What kills it?

But now that it’s The Bug That Ate New York, Not to Mention Other Shocked American Cities, that may change.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement on bedbug control. It was not, however, a declaration of war nor a plan of action. It was an acknowledgment that the problem is big, a reminder that federal agencies mostly give advice, plus some advice: try a mix of vacuuming, crevice-sealing, heat and chemicals to kill the things…

Ask any expert why the bugs disappeared for 40 years, why they came roaring back in the late 1990s, even why they do not spread disease, and you hear one answer: “Good question.”

“The first time I saw one that wasn’t dated 1957 and mounted on a microscope slide was in 2001,” said Dini M. Miller, a Virginia Tech cockroach expert who has added bedbugs to her repertoire.

The bugs have probably been biting our ancestors since they moved from trees to caves. The bugs are “nest parasites” that fed on bats and cave birds like swallows before man moved in.

That makes their disease-free status even more baffling

Bedbugs, despite the ick factor, are clean.

RTFA and learn a lot more. Including the sad fact that we don’t really know a lot about these critters – including dealing with their presence.

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