The Cause of The Bedbug Epidemic? The Media, Of Course

Over the past five years more than 400 articles about the resurgent bedbug scourge sweeping the nation have been published, no more so than in "the capital of bedbug journalism," Manhattan. Today, The Washington Post reported that the "scale of this swarm has been overstated."

Yes, it’s true that bedbugs made an unexpected comeback at the turn of the century after they were all but eradicted by the pesticide DDT in the 1950’s. But the man vs. critter appeal of the bedbug narrative has fueled a media frenzy that is difficult to verify with statistics; yet, it’s been sending shockwaves through the hospitality sector.

Since few studies have been done on the supposed bedbug revival, news reports rely on hysterical calls to pest controllers–an industry that reaps $6.5 billion annually–perpetuating the fear-mongering even further. The Post quotes entymologists blaming exterminators for telling skittish homeowners they have bedbugs when they don’t; cites the new phenomenon of dogs trained to sniff them out; and points to a boom in bedbug litigation, signalling that the media attention may have spurred a veritable industry.

The New York City Housing authority has responded to 2,500 bedbug complaints in the past three years, only 500 of which have revealed actual bedbug infestation.

The Cause of The Bedbug Epidemic? The Media, Of Course