cover image Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World

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

Brooke Borel. Univ. of Chicago, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-226-04193-3

A personal experience with the reemergence of pesticide-resistant bedbugs in the last decade%E2%80%94after their near eradication during the golden era of DDT%E2%80%94spurs journalist Borel to visit international scientists, exterminators, and industry salespeople in order to research the notorious bloodsucking insects. Bedbugs likely arrived in America via the Mayflower; they have plagued human sleepers since ancient Egypt and, according to genetic research, probably since the dawn of human civilization. Borel's style is more sober scientific travelogue than sensationalist fearmongering, even when she watches researchers feed their own blood to jarred specimens, describes the traumatic insemination of swollen female bedbugs by abdominal stabbing, or investigates an infested Czech bat cave. At home, she looks at media responses to the new wave of infestation: an off-off-Broadway rock opera with David Bowie%E2%80%93esque bug costumes; bloggers expressing shame, anxiety, and mania in the face of dealing with their apartments; and CBS's declaration of 2010 as the "Year of the Bedbug." Borel's dry style doesn't communicate true fascination, but her science is solid, and by the end, the reader may feel sympathetically itchy. Photos (Apr.)