Bedbugs Bite Their Way Across the Country

The Tiny Bugs Have Developed Resistance to Most Pesticides and the One Sure Way to Get Rid of Them Can’t be Used

By Cynthia Bowers
  • Play CBS Video Video The Bed Bug EpidemicThe infestation of bed bugs has caused havoc in dozens of cities across the nation. As Cynthia Bowers reports, an effective pesticide has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency.
    • Decades after bedbugs were eradicated they're making a big comeback.Decades after bedbugs were eradicated they’re making a big comeback. (AP)
    • Bedbugs settle on beds, couches, and recliners.Bedbugs settle on beds, couches, and recliners. (CBS)
    • Bedbugs.Bedbugs. (CBS)

Decades after bedbugs were eradicated they’re making a big comeback. Terminix – a nationwide exterminator – said Wednesday that New York and Philadelphia have the biggest infestations and four cities in Ohio are in the top 15.

There is something that can stop bedbugs but we can’t use it. Fighting the tiny bedbugs has become big business for Columbus, Ohio, exterminator Lonnie Alonso, who has no idea why his state is under siege.

“Eighty to 90 percent of the phone calls we get every single day are related to bedbugs,” says Alonso.

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Nationally since 2006 the money spent eradicating bedbugs has more than doubled, topping $250 million dollars, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers. New York City leads the misery index, where even couples like the Krause’s living in upscale apartments are finding themselves infested.

“I woke up and found that I had a couple of bites on me,” says Amber Krause. “That’s when I was pretty sure it was leading to bedbugs.”

America is suddenly crawling with these critters because they’ve developed a resistance to most pesticides. Experts say there is an effective weapon – a chemical called Propoxur – that keeps killing for up to five weeks. The EPA says the chemical could be dangerous to children. The government recently said no more could be manufactured for use inside.

“As of a week and a half ago, I ordered the last 170 cases that my supplier was able to find,” says Alonso.

No state is tackling this plague as aggressively as Ohio. It’s even petitioned the EPA for permission to continue using the pesticide Propoxur indoors as its last best option. Even as they await approval, time and stores of the toxin are running out.

“The other options of newer technologies, newer chemicals that will come down the pike, those things will take a long time. We need short term solutions,” says Alonso.

Bedbugs can live up to a year. Each female can give birth to as many as 500. Alonso says unlike roaches or ants, these insects feast on you, which is why they settle on beds, couches, and recliners.

Columbus grandmother Delores Stewart has been fighting the pests for nearly a year. “I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want them crawling all over me,” she says.

The EPA is standing firm on the ban of Propoxur indoors but offers these suggestions: seal cracks and crevices along baseboards; remove clutter; use a special mattress cover; dry clothing and sheets at high temperatures.

“Don’t let them get out of control because once you let them get out control you can’t handle them,” says Stewart.

Scientists say the perfect parasite never kills its host but as millions of Americans have found out, it can drive them crazy.


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