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Ask Marilyn: Would Eliminating Bedbugs Affect the Planet?
C.?J. Russell of Denver writes:
Marilyn: I once had a bedbug problem, and it gave me nightmares for a long time. Would the elimination of bedbugs affect our planet?
Readers usually ask this question about mosquitoes! I reply that complete eradication of these flying disease vectors would be a boon to mankind. More than 200 million people were infected with malaria last year; mosquitoes also spread encephalitis, yellow fever, meningitis, dengue fever, and more. But then I hear from people who worry about the food chain. They say that if it weren’t for mosquitoes, certain other animals—those who feed on them—may die off, and so on. These people believe that every organism fills a crucial niche and that the balance of nature is delicate. Bedbugs provide some evidence this is not true. After World War II, insecticides such as DDT virtually eliminated these pests in this country, Canada, and Europe. Bedbugs were gone for decades and didn’t reappear until almost the new millennium. Did anything bad happen to the food chain in these parts of the world? No. The food chain isn’t static. Living things evolve and disappear; environments are transformed. In short, nature is all about change.