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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Few animals elicit such a profound combination of horror, fear, and disgust as the bedbug. Uninvited, bedbugs invade our most private spaces (our beds), take away our blood, and afterwards, impudently mark their territory (our sheets). In this book, Klaus Reinhardt investigates the natural and human history of these vampiric insects, examining how ordinary people, travelers, writers, and scientists have experienced bedbugs; how we have coped with them; and what we have done to combat them.

From fossils to classical Greek plays to the beds of medieval travelers, history is a rash of bedbugs. So ubiquitous and so loathed are these contentious creatures, the first recorded use of the insect moniker “bug” refers to them, a word that now means any sort of glitch or invader—from computer errors to snooping devices. Lifting the covers on this pestilential history, Reinhardt shows how bedbugs were not only the center of bitter fights among scientists, but also how the bugs’ dangerous aspects were foregrounded, and how bedbugs’ peculiar mating habits fueled public revulsion. Richly illustrated, full of the latest bedbug research, and sure to make you itch, Bedbug closes with a plea for sanguine tolerance—something humans and bedbugs will need alike as worldwide infestation rates soar.

192 pages | 59 color plates, 30 halftones | 5 1/4 x 7 1/2


Biological Sciences: Ecology, Natural History

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“A pure reading pleasure.”

Insect-Nytt (Norway)

“This compact book not only provides a good scientific run down of this pest, but offers it in an amusing, and often lighthearted, manner. . . . The book traces bed bugs from fossils to ancient Greek theater, modern horror fiction, and the bitter battles of recent scientific research. It investigates the animal’s natural history and examines how ordinary people, travelers, artists, and scientists have experienced and confronted bedbugs over the centuries.”

Pest Magazine

Bedbug is another excellent addition to Reaktion’s highly acclaimed animal series. In this volume Reinhardt illuminates the biology of an old enemy and explores our attitudes to it across western history and culture. . . . The book is richly illustrated with photographs, cartoons, posters, and book covers, all of which add a cross-cultural perspective to the informative text. Reinhardt has produced a thought-provoking book that explores a twenty-first century entomological taboo, dispelling many of the myths that surround this insect and revealing a fascinating if not entirely welcome invertebrate. Perhaps we should, as Reinhardt hints, learn to be more tolerant of our bedbugs.”


"Bedbugs have a familiar reputation as insidious bloodsucking pests that must be prevented from infesting humans' personal spaces. Yet few people, relatively speaking, have personal experience with them. Reinhardt covers bedbug evolution and biology by weaving the narrative into vignettes of public interest. Science combines with history, psychology, economics, culture, and society to inform, entertain, and advise readers, especially because bedbug incidence is expected to increase. Abundant illustrations include historical evidence of bedbug/human events in history and a wide range of social subjects, from marketing control measures to the unfair stigma connecting bedbugs to lower socioeconomic classes. Bedbugs in science, art, music, and literature provide a historical context from several perspectives. The bedbug is nearly universally perceived as a creepy, crawly, despicable critter originating somewhere else that humans can never reconcile with. The reality, as the author reveals, is less dramatic: the bedbug is a chronic but tolerable parasite endured by millions of people for millennia. Recommended."


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