Exterminate! Exterminate!

They’re in your bed!

They’re in your cinema chair!

They’re chewing on the Brooklyn district attorney!

They’re even flitting around the squeaky-clean Elle magazine offices! (Not much flesh to nibble on there, fellas.)

“They,” or Them!, are, of course, bed bugs. And next to Islam, mosques, oil, Sarah, and Barack, they might be the biggest news item out there right now. They’re invading the country and its press at unprecedented levels. At least, a quick Google news archive search—about as scientific as I was willing to go for this bug-weight post—shows that stories about the nasty biters have been on the rise of late. (This Baltimore alt-weekly piece is one of the best reads on the subject.) The sketchy Google archive timeline shows 2010 as the year in which there has been more “bed bug” coverage than ever.

The trend is probably because there are a whole lot more outlets producing Googlable content than ever. Nonetheless, it certainly feels to one who spends his day online like bed bugs are dominating the headlines at crazy levels, and we are suddenly in Attack of the Killer Something or Other.

Without necessarily proving that there are more bed bugs than ever, many outlets have roped in some good-enough doctors to offer good-enough explanations as to why there are more bed bugs than ever. My favorite comes from this Forbes piece, “Office memo: bed bugs are back”:

Why are they back? Michael Potter, Ph.D., an entomologist at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, believes the explanation lies in a perfect storm of increased international travel, greater movement of people in general and changes in pest control practices, including the use of bug pesticides that are less effective than DDT, for example.

Additionally, there has been a “total loss of awareness and lack of vigilance,” says Potter. “People in the old days knew to check their hotel beds, their clothing when it was back from the laundry and what their kids brought home from camp. We have a whole new generation [that thinks] stuff doesn’t bite you when you’re sleeping. We opened the door and allowed them to come roaring back.”

Aghh!!! Love it.

But what’s been truly wonderful about the bed bug story—which in many ways is quite a serious one—are the headlines. Particularly those documenting the Times Square movie theatre bed bug incident. It’s as if we’ve walked in to a B-movie and the fake-movie press is prepping us for a climactic invasion in which some will live, some will be bitten and chewed and gnawed to death, and bed bugs will be vanquished. Until the sequel.

A CBS online story which ascribed bed bugs the same capacity for strategy as an insurgency—“New York’s army of bedbugs invaded a twenty-five-screen movie theater in New York’s Times Square Wednesday”—screams: “Bedbugs Movie Theater Invasion: What’s Their Next Target?”

Then there’s:

“Creature feature! Bedbugs bite at Times Square theatre” from Newsday.

“Popcorn? Licorice? Blood? Bedbugs hit NYC theatres” from the AP.

“Bed Bugs Make Coast-To-Coast Comeback” from NBC in Columbus

Gulp. I’m suddenly feeling very itchy.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.