In the summer of 2010 bed bugs rose to become a very hot topic across the United States. And it created a lot of panic. With major infestations occurring in various cities, both large and small, a lot of awareness had been raised about these small bugs that make a large commotion.

Up until 2010, it had been widely believed bed bugs had been eradicated in the U.S. since the 1940s. As we learned, this is definitely not the case and there has been a comeback. The problem of these small pests, while slightly less publicized now than it had been in 2010, is still an ongoing issue for many homes and businesses - even in 2015.

Bed Bugs Do Not Discriminate

In recent years many apartment buildings and homes have gotten infested. This has happened in a number of U.S. cities.  Bed bugs are not discriminatory in where they choose to live. Even the cleanest building can become overrun with the dreaded pest, although less clutter is better as it eliminates places for these nuisance bugs to take residence.

Homes and hotels (or other places where beds are located) are not the only places affected. A number of businesses, some of them pretty high profile, were severely affected by bed bugs in recent years. As these pests continue to spread and make their icky presence known, many companies in recent years have run into significant problems, some even having to temporarily close up shop to focus on getting rid of the infestation.

Many Businesses are at Risk

Traditionally, places like hotels and hostels were the types of businesses most likely to be heavily affected by bed bugs, however in modern day, other commercial establishments found themselves dealing with this problem too. Places, such as clothing and shoe stores, ended up having to contend with these nuisance bugs as well. In 2010 many New York City retailers were impacted including Abercrombie & Finch, Victoria's Secret and Nike which had to temporarily shutter their doors to deal with the insect problem.

Not only did these and other retailers have to cope with ridding their stores of the blood-sucking insects, they also had to deal with lost profits during the time frame they were closed. In regards to Nike, New York Magazine stated in 2010:

"In a major space like that, seven to 10 days of treatment are recommended to eradicate the vermin." (via CNN ) 1

That is a lot of time lost, as a closed shop equates to no profitability during that time frame.

Bed bug feces
Credit: Hadifn/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (via Wikimedia Commons)

These pesky insects leave behind visible feces

Preserving a Brand's Reputation

In addition to dealing with the actual infestations, retailers must turn to balancing the negative publicity surrounding a bed bug incident. While these annoying insects can creep up in any type of location, it  really doesn't have anything to do with the cleanliness of the store. Unfortunately for a business, any type of bugs are usually typically associated with unsanitary or dirty conditions. Just one episode of these pests can ultimately have a big negative effect on a brand's reputation. It may take some creative marketing to repair the damage done to a business' reputation after a public bed bud incident.

For Others, Creepy-Crawly Pests Equal High Profits

While the insects are a headache to those affected for the aforementioned reasons, one industry's losses is another industry's gain. There are some types of businesses that actually benefit off the annoying critters.  For instance, pest management companies, risk management professionals and insurance companies can step in to help businesses suffering from bed bug infestation and, in the process, grow their own profits.

Bed Bugs are Not Quite Old News Yet

While many of the most circulated stores about businesses being infested with these critters occurred around 2010, bed bugs aren't quite yet old news. Some experts suggest bed bugs are becoming more common and are still pretty quick to spread. 4 I did a cursory look through Google News when writing this article and found a number of current reports relating to either infestations or threat of a potential infestation.

For instance, in March 2015, several instances of large-scale presence of bed bugs have made the news. These insects were found in a couple of libraries and at least one college so far this year. Another college campus closed down after a student reported his family had these insects at home (some questioned this claim's validity, but bugs or not, it did cause enough of a panic school closed as a precaution). This type of response perhaps illustrates the fear of just how quickly these critters can spread once they find their way into a building. And what kind of havoc they can create.

Bed bug nymph
Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease and Control (CDC)/Public Domain image (accessed via Wikimedia Commons)

The common version of this type of bug is wingless, red-brown and feasts on the blood of humans or other hosts. It grows to about 7 mm in length and can live anywhere from 4 months to 1 year. 

Bed Bugs Go Back a Long Way

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. According to Popular Science, the oldest example dates back more than 3,000 years in ancient Egypt; some experts suggest the insect's history with humans dates back even tens of thousands of years earlier. The Popular Science report, dated February 2015,  also said scientists believe the most common type of bed bug, scientific name Cimex lectularius, may be "splitting" into a new species. 6

"Although the insects appear to be the same species, they are so genetically different that the researchers think the bed bug may be splitting into a new species--one that is unique to humans," writes Brooke Borel for Popular Science.  

It is important to understand that while some pesticides are recommended to rid of these pests, it is important to have an expert check things out. Not all chemicals are effective in getting rid of these nuisance bugs, and you can end up making yourself or others who visit the business sick, or worse. 7

While bed bugs contain both creepy and ick factors for pretty much anyone in society, in terms of business, there is an immediate impact and also some potential long-term effects for some. Even after these pests are long gone, for businesses the earlier presence and public knowledge can have a long-term residual presence.

18th century bed
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

"Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite" is a phrase most of us are used to hearing. Some theories suggest it originated literally when beds were made of rope (like this 18th century one located in Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia) and organic materials. Today that theory is often disputed.