From the middle to the end of the 20th Century, problems with bed bugs in the US were almost non-existent. Bed bug infestations were so rare that many people began to think that bed bugs were an urban legion. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, bed bugs have become an urban legend.The Rental Protection Agency, a private organization that operates an online clearing house of landlord complaints, now reports that bed bugs- not damage deposits, not leaky plumbing, not privacy issues are the #1 complaint that they receive. Five years ago very few bed bug complaints were fielded.
The bed bug problem has become so severe that the City Of San Francisco is considering legislation that requires pest control services and landlords to report their history with bed bugs to tenants. Additionally, the legislation would require landlords to treat the bed bug problems. For buildings with multiple units, effective bed bug treatments require action in all the apartments simultaneously. Bed bugs can crawl through utility corridors separating adjoining apartments making it difficult or impossible for a tenant to control their problem as individuals. Individuals often cannot afford the cost of professional treatment and may move rather than treat. This leaves the problem to the next unsuspecting tenant. The tenant who moves may move bed bugs to the new location, spreading the problem.
Why has the bed bug problem has recently reemerged? Possible factors include biological changes in bed bugs (a new strain?) and the discontinuing the use of some classes of pesticides indoors to control cockroaches and other pests. (These pesticides may have been unintentionally controlling bed bugs.) Whatever the reason, we have an epidemic of bed bugs and are in need of new methods to control them.