There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Bedbug

In a sure sign that the apocalypse is near, I read today in the WSJ that bedbugs are evolving several resistance techniques that makes them even harder to kill. Researchers at UMass have found NYC bedbugs are now 250 times more resistant to the standard pesticide than their brethren in Florida, because of changes in a gene that controls the resilience of the nerve cells targeted by the insecticide.

Another defense that’s been honed in recent years is a thicker shell that can block insecticides, giving them “several back doors open to escape,” said a German entomologist.

The reasons above are part of why more and more hotels are reporting bedbug plagues. The news gets worse: In tests around the world, some of the critters have been able to survive pesticide levels a thousand times greater than those used ten years ago.

Usually, a problem like this is solved by the market: companies develop alternative methods of killing because there is research money available. But sadly, though bedbugs are a hotelier’s ultimate nightmare, there is little medical funding to pay for research…this is explained by the fact that they don’t transmit serious infectious diseases, they just make people afraid to sleep in some hotel rooms.

I have a solution: why don’t the top ten hotel chains pool some money and hire the top entomologists to solve this vexing riddle? “Insect resistance is sped-up evolution,” said John Clark of UMass. Certain genes in the insects can actually turn toxic chemicals into water soluble compounds that can easily be excreted. Oh, the horror!