For Kyle Anderson, 19, the battle began with a row of welts on his stomach. Soon the Arizona State University student, who was living in a private apartment complex in Tempe, was waking up repeatedly at night to smash anything that moved.
His prey? Cimex lectularius, those notorious nocturnal, lentil-size bedbugs that feed on human blood, can travel on anything from luggage to a used sofa and are now popping up everywhere across America—from homes to hotels to summer camps—in surprisingly large numbers. “History is repeating itself,” says Michael Potter, an entomologist from the University of Kentucky and a leading bedbug expert, who notes that most American homes were crawling with the bugs prior to World War II. The widespread use of potent insecticides such as DDT nearly wiped them out. Experts aren’t sure what’s spurring a comeback now, but they theorize it’s a combination of international travel and the move away from strong pesticides.