Bed bug summit strategizes on formulating a plan for future conversations about imminent epidemic

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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Nothing solves a problem like a summit, especially a national summit. The 2nd National Bed Bug Summit, for instance, solved the problem of coming up with a plan to tackle a nation-wide “epidemic.”  It also solved the problem of insomnia.

Held in Washington D.C.’s own boutique quarantined area of Georgetown over two days, the summit was so exciting The Daily Caller came just to hear the very last discussion on the very last day. This session was to be the wrap up, the best hits reel, the rallying cry for the Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored extravaganza featuring the foremost leaders of the Pest Control Industry. So what was the verdict of the final session, “Formulation of Recommendations on National Strategy?”

The experts agreed: Let’s discuss a possible plan to formulate some recommendations in order to someday develop a national strategy. In other words, the summit hoped the pests could be talked to death.

Bed bugs are a big f-ing deal. They’ve been on a reunion tour since the late ’90s and like any other bad musical act, they’re spending a lot of time in cities like New York and Philadelphia. As TheDC’s Jonathan Strong noted in August, the current bed bug “epidemic” coincides with the “Clinton EPA [which] banned several classes of chemicals that had been effective bed bug killers.”

While there are roughly 300 pesticides still approved for bed bug bashing, the EPA hasn’t loosened its grip on The Good Stuff. What’s more, amidst this current “epidemic” of the really annoying pest, the EPA is standing its ground in regards to chemicals. In fact, it’s pushing the professional-sounding Integrated Pest Management plan(IPM) — which includes cooperation from the CDC, USDA, NIH, HUD, and even the DoD! — in an attempt to squash the bed bug using every method other than chemical.

“We’re going forward, not back,” said the man who was theoretically in charge of handling the press but requested he not be quoted by name. So what is an integrated plan and what does going forward mean mystery man?

Well, it starts with teaching people to “clean up clutter” around their house and ends with reminding people: “Don’t leave things on the floor.”

The nation’s pest controller’s solution to bedbugs, then, is to play Kindergarten teacher and with a socially-conscience let’s-talk-it-out-approach. So good at talking, are they, that even redundant discussions of redundancies became redundant at the summit.

“I think it’s encouraging that there’s so much redundancy [in our various discussions],” said one session leader. “It means we only have to do a few things.”

“The fact that there is so much redundancy show that we’re all on the same page,” said another.

Some of those redundancies included the need for a virtual “clearinghouse” for information regarding bed bugs. The catchphrase was repeated at least a dozen times by at least six people within the span of an hour.

TheDC isn’t entirely sure what the word “clearinghouse” means, however, although it surely doesn’t involve Ed McMahon. The lack of clarity could be due to the fact that TheDC may have nodded off as one speaker explained why social networking websites and virtual clearinghouses of information were important. TheDC woke up when someone sitting directly behind groaned and said “I forgot what we’re talking about.”

The summit’s other fantastic redundancies included educating a stupid public and an ignorant press.

During a particularly biologically-stimulating presentation, one participant made it clear that pest controllers need to do a better job ensuring that newspapers get their facts right when reporting and describing bed bugs.

“They’re not always reddish Brown,” he said. “Look, this one is mahogany.”

The pest controllers also agreed that they need someone better equipped to deal with the big-ridden masses. They called for a professional marketing strategy, a “collective public service announcement,” and the surprisingly ambitious idea of a celebrity spokesperson who has dealt with bed bugs before. (“We’re the Jonas Brothers and we’re here to talk to you about crabs.” It’s bed bugs Justin. “Oh. well, like, never-mind, then.”)

For the participants, the pest control industry’s obstacles are huge but not impossible to overcome: there isn’t enough government coordination and dissemination of information and there aren’t enough regulations and efficacy studies of the chemicals that actually do kill the bugs.

To the summit’s credit, it seemed resigned to the fact that the pest control industry isn’t going to get a lot of attention or cash from the government in order to spread the word, create a “clearinghouse,” or pay the Jonas Brothers too much for five minutes of work.

The paradox of the summit was that it stressed that simple education and preventive measures were key to stopping the spread of these annoying little bugs, while also reminding everyone what an “epidemic” we truly face.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said one summit leader. “We face an economic crisis.”

Above all, however, the summit’s participants seemed dead-set on “moving forward,” away from chemicals that actually work and the public’s own do-it-yourself remedies. With this new crisis, it’s time to truly standardize and professionalize a $6.76 billion industry. Most importantly, the professionals need to discuss formulating a plan to develop national strategies.  It’s important that somebody takes control of the situation, damnit.

Otherwise, an uninformed public will continue to scratch itself stupid. We’re talking literally stupid, here. It was noted, twice, that educating both the uninformed and the “mentally ill” was a particularly difficult challenge. And as luck would have it, the summit had a live demonstration.

During the question and answer section, one general-public woman approached the audience mic and informed the room of professionals that she was a bedbug sufferer who was attending the summit because she had “begun doing intensive research” on the pest. This was trouble.

Anytime someone begins expounding (to real experts or fake experts, like journalists) on the results of his or her “own extensive research,” it’s usually a warning sign that the person is either half-mad or dumber than a can of raid. In this case, it was the latter. As the woman began to talk about her findings, including the use of EPA-friendly cedar-oil and a fogger, groaning could be heard.

“Oh god,” grunted the voice as the” stupid” woman droned on. “How scientific.”

The poor, uninformed woman said she had “declared war on bed bugs,” and TheDC wondered by she didn’t just napalm the hell out of them.

Looking around the room, though, it was clear. The EPA-organized summit was like one organized by the U.N. There was plenty of talking, and discussing, and planning, and strategizing, and hoping for a brighter, more organized future. What there wasn’t, however, was any consideration for a successful and proven shock-n-awe solution.

Maybe they’ll formulate a plan to develop a strategy for that one at the third national summit.

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