Bed Bugs Bite China

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Bed Bugs in Hong Kong

In a recent article by JS Lam he reminisces about the process of ridding Hong Kong of bed bugs in the 1950s. A sanitation crew sent by the Urban Services Department would fill large tubs with pesticides, colloquially referred to by the locals as “stinky water,” and then treat the places bed bugs love to hide the most: bed headboards, frames, and other porous, wooden objects. This campaign, along with several others worldwide, led to the near eradication of bed bugs in many countries. It’s likely that the crews in Hong Kong were using DDT, a powerful pesticide that was banned for use in the United States in the early 1970’s.

Sadly, there has now been a reemergence of bed bug populations across Hong Kong and mainland China. In JS Lam’s case, he encountered bed bugs again for the first time in decades when they entered his house with his new maid, who caught them at the company accommodations she was staying at. Luckily his family has so far been able to successfully treat his house, by removing contaminated belongings, treating the rooms with pesticides, and treating the walls of their unit.

Bed Bugs Return to Mainland China

Bed bugs are also making a return in mainland China. Their population was very low by the late 1980’s, after a public health campaign starting in the 1960’s that designated them as one of the four pests to be eliminated nationwide. However, bed bugs have returned and are common in crowded living situations, such as military barracks, hotels, and trains. The prevalence on trains has been especially concerning, as the migrant worker population in China relies heavily on train travel to get home during major holidays.

Dead bed bugs next to a coin to represent size


Unlike infestations in North America, the bed bug populations in China today show much less resistance to pesticides, including Pyrethroid based ones. Researchers at Rutgers University suspect that this is due to the speed with which bed bugs were eliminated, as well as the variety of pesticides originally used to eradicate them. It remains to be seen whether that will help in efforts to stop their spread, as bed bug populations explode in cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Posted by Rose Eckert-Jantzie

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