Before humans came into existence over 200,000 years ago, bed bugs were already well established in the world. Once humans arrived, bed bugs may have evolved to prefer feeding on human blood, but this cannot be confirmed as fact. In any case, bed bugs have probably been a source of irritation for humans since day one. Bed bug fossils dating back 3,500 years have been uncovered in Egypt. At this point in history, bed bugs were considered pests as well as a useful ingredient in medicinal concoctions. Over the course of history, humans have experimented with a variety of bed bug control methods, but it was not until the 17th century that the first commercial bed bug control professionals appeared. Considering that bed bugs only became a widespread public health nuisance during the 17th and 18th centuries, it makes sense that the first privately owned bed bug control business formed in 1690 in Great Britain. This business was called Tiffin and Son of London, and their bed bug control methods were both similar and very different to the control methods employed today.
Much like today, Tiffin and Son of London considered regular bed bug infestations to be the most effective bed bug control method, as bed bugs were hard to eradicate once they established a presence within a home. The inspections offered by the early business was “contract based” like today, but their services could only be afforded by wealthy British aristocrats. The pest controllers with Tiffin and Son also stressed the importance of preventing bed bugs from accessing homes through infested items.
Another early British bed bug control professional was John Southall, and he wrote the first ever text that describes the nature of bed bugs and how to prevent infestations. Southall became popular for selling his own brand of “insecticide” for combating bed bug infestations. The substance was called “Nonpareil Liquor” and he supposedly acquired the concoction while visiting Jamaica during the early 1700s. The 1777 book entitled The Compleat Vermin-Killer recommended that bed bugs be eradicated by applying gun power to the cracks in a bed frame before setting it on fire. During the 19th century, early Americans hoped to avoid bed bug infestations by purchasing bed frames made of sassafras wood, which was a type of wood that was wrongly assumed to naturally repel bed bugs. Instead of using gunpowder, Americans applied a solution containing boiling water, sulfur and arsenic to the cracks in bed frames in order to eradicate the insects. Even after four hundred years of pest control development, bed bug infestations remain difficult to eradicate, and numerous snake oil bed bug control measures are still sold to gullible bed bug victims to this day.
Have you ever attempted to eradicate any type of insect infestation on your own?