The History of Bed Bug Management

Lanham, MD; March 17, 2011—For a limited time, "The History of Bed Bug Management -- With Lessons from the Past" by Dr. Michael F. Potter, University of Kentucky, will be available to the public for free at

The article, which appears in the Spring 2011 edition of American Entomologist, provides a historical review of the impacts of bed bugs and their management.

"Bed bugs have been biting us since the beginning of recorded time," Potter writes. "Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of 21st century bed bugs is that we are in uncharted territory ... The foundation of bed bug management still consists of hard work, public education, and constant vigilance to prevent or detect infestations in the early stages."

In the article, Dr. Potter explains that throughout history mankind has suffered from bed bug bites. It was only during the second half of the 20th century that humanity received a reprieve from the sleep-depriving parasites, thanks mostly to the availability of potent residual pesticides.

Some interesting bed bug facts that appear in the article are:

- Experts believe the bugs initially fed on bats and then began feeding on humans. Bed bugs have been around since the caveman days.

- Bed bugs were first reported in England in 1583, and they hitchhiked their way to the Americas aboard ships.

- Exterminators were battling bed bugs at least as far back as 1690.

- Bed bugs received a big reproductive boost in the early 1900s, when central heating of buildings became common. Bed bug populations had previously followed a more seasonal trend, but heated buildings allowed them to thrive year-round.

- In Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s, an estimated one-third of dwellings in major cities had bed bugs.

- In the 1930s, a survey of 3,000 moving vans in Stockholm, Sweden found bed bugs on 47% of the vans inspected, foretelling big concerns for moving and storage companies today.

- In 1895, a Chicago jury ruled that “no man shall be required to pay rent for a house infested with bedbugs.” Editorializing on the verdict, the news media noted that if the ruling held, “the great majority of Chicagoans would be relieved of their rent bills.”

To download a free copy of "The History of Bed Bug Management -- With Lessons from the Past," please visit

Dr. Michael F. Potter is an extension professor and urban entomologist at the University of Kentucky. In recent years, he and his research colleagues at UK have spent much of their time working on the front lines of the global bed bug pandemic.

American Entomologist, a quarterly magazine published by the Entomological Society of America (, contains articles and information of general entomological interest.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers,extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives,research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists.