Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Modern life holds modern terrors--such as, for example, modern weapons in the hands of modern terrorists.
But one ancient problem that was thought to have been more-or-less eradicated in this country is making a comeback, to wit: bedbugs.
Yes, yes; my mother's old going-to-bed rhyme "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" has become the trendy thing to say, at least in New York City which, according today's New York Times, is experiencing something of a bedbug renaissance.
This article is available only with registration. It's rather long and I can't quite do it justice with only a short excerpt, but here's a summary anyway:
"It's becoming an epidemic," said Jeffrey Eisenberg, the owner of Pest Away Exterminating, an Upper West Side business that receives about 125 bedbug calls a week, compared with just a handful five years ago. "People are being tortured, and so am I. I spend half my day talking to hysterical people about bedbugs...
Unlike mice and roaches, which are abetted by filthy surroundings, bedbugs do just fine in a well-scrubbed home, although bedroom clutter gives them more places to hide and breed. When engorged with blood, they grow slightly plumper than the O on this page, although the nymphs, which appear almost translucent before their first meal, are not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
And contrary to popular perceptions, they don't dwell just in mattresses and box springs: any wall or floor crack the thickness of a playing card can accommodate a bedbug. Although some people try to treat the problem themselves, most people hire exterminators, at a cost of $300 per room.
The modern bedbug is immune to hardware store-variety insecticides, and setting off a cockroach bomb in the bedroom will only scatter them farther afield. And because they are active only at night, many people don't discover them until their population has grown into the hundreds, or even thousands.
Lurking in this article is a hint as to some of the reasons for the upsurge:
In the bedbug resurgence, entomologists and exterminators blame increased immigration from the developing world, the advent of cheap international travel and the recent banning of powerful pesticides. Other culprits include the recycled mattress industry and those thrifty New Yorkers who revel in the discovery of a free sofa on the sidewalk.
That banned pesticide is primarily DDT. And therein lies a very serious subject--the myriad ways in which the banning of DDT has caused problems throughout the world, problems far greater than New York City's bedbug colonization.
If you're not familiar with the subject and are interested in learning more, please ponder this and this, for starters.
I certainly hope that DDT is not as dangerous as we've been led to believe, not only because I'd like to see it used successfully to stem the tide of the scourge of malaria, but because I remember following in the wake of large trucks spraying it every summer when I was a child. My strong suspicion is that I received quite a hefty dose myself.
Well, at least I can comfort myself with the fact that when I would stick my little feet into those X-ray machines all shoe stores used to sport when I was a child (those of a certain age will remember what I'm talking about; those of you who are younger will no doubt be very puzzled--but here's an explanation), they were always malfunctioning (the X-ray machines, that is, not my feet). So I may have been spared a fairly nasty overdose of X-rays to go along with that DDT.