How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World

Brooke Borel

Brooke Borel

224 pages | 43 halftones, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226041933 Will Publish April 2015
E-book $18.00 ISBN: 9780226042091 Will Publish April 2015
Bed bugs. Few words strike such fear in the minds of travelers. In cities around the world, lurking beneath the plush blankets of otherwise pristine-looking hotel beds are tiny bloodthirsty beasts just waiting for weary wanderers to surrender to a vulnerable slumber. Though bed bugs today have infested the globe, the common bed bug is not a new pest at all. Indeed, as Brooke Borel reveals in this unusual history, this most-reviled species may date back over 250,000 years, wreaking havoc on our collective psyche while even inspiring art, literature, and music—in addition to vexatious red welts.
In Infested, Borel introduces readers to the biological and cultural histories of these amazingly adaptive insects, and the myriad ways in which humans have responded to them. She travels to meet with scientists who are rearing bed bug colonies—even by feeding them with their own blood (ouch!)—and to the stages of musicals performed in honor of the pests. She explores the history of bed bugs and their apparent disappearance in the 1950s after the introduction of DDT, charting how current infestations have flourished in direct response to human chemical use as well as the ease of global travel. She also introduces us to the economics of bed bug infestations, from hotels to homes to office buildings, and the expansive industry that has arisen to combat them.

Hiding during the day in the nooks and seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, wallpaper, or any clutter around a bed, bed bugs are thriving and eager for their next victim. By providing fascinating details on bed bug science and behavior as well as a captivating look into the lives of those devoted to researching or eradicating them, Infested is sure to inspire at least a nibble of respect for these tenacious creatures—while also ensuring that you will peek beneath the sheets with prickly apprehension.
Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses
“Our encounters with bed bugs used to be limited to wishes for a good night’s sleep. But now they’re everywhere—in hotels, apartments, and even subways. In her fascinating book Infested,  Borel chronicles the renaissance of this frightful insect and leaves us marveling at their remarkable biology.”
Dan Vergano, National Geographic
“A fun, wild romp through the wily world of bed bugs and the folks hunting them down. Borel travels from Brooklyn bedposts to Bohemian benches on the trail of this burgeoning pest, itching for the reader as she goes. Infested unveils the secrets of these frankly weird bloodsuckers, right down to their unlikely sex lives, and introduces readers to the obsessives looking to stop their march into your own bed. A terrific science book.”
Scott Richard Shaw, author of Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects
“Borel’s captivating writing quickly draws you into the mysterious and creepy tale of the bed bug.  Both a journey of self-discovery and an exploration into the world of this fascinating insect, Borel shows us that the story of the bed bug is ultimately intertwined with the history of the human species.  You probably don't like bed bugs, but you will love this book!”
Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy
“Borel has done the seemingly impossible: written an absolute page-turner of a book about bed bugs. Infested is as engaging as it is erudite, as fun as it is informative. This is popular science writing at its best.”
Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA
In an odyssey that begins with understandable loathing and ends with surprising sympathy, Borel takes us on a smart, subtle, witty journey through the biology and history of the bed bug—an insect that has been our companion for hundreds of millennia, yet one that we barely understand and have no clue how to control. Borel captures the persistence of the bug, the obsessiveness of its foes, and the eagerness of entrepreneurs to turn a quick profit with no thought for the long consequences. It is impossible to read Infested without experiencing fascination, respect—and just maybe, a phantom itch.”
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