It seems people are having some difficulty distinguishing bedbugs from other bugs that move into your home and crawl on your elbow at night. If you find a suspicious-looking brown thing in your bed, or suspect you're being bitten night after night, you can peruse a wealth of Internet photos, call in the bug-snuffing (and sniffing!) professionals, or torch all your belongings and flee town. But if you're not prepared to do any of those things unless you are 1,000 percent sure you're suffering a serious infestation, it appears you can just pop a cotton swab into an envelope and ship it off to Texas for DNA testing. The modern world is a marvel!
Real estate blog Brick Underground dug into the mysterious world of bedbug DNA testing today—apparently, for Dallas-based company BugLab ID can use the bug's DNA to determine a) if you are, in fact, being plagued by a few hundred dreaded bedbugs and, b) if yes, how severe said infestation has gotten. "Basically we come in and swab the surface, depending on what we’re looking for, and then we would take that sample and overnight it to the laboratory,” company chairman Martin Hale told the site, noting that it takes about 24 hours for the lab to inform you as to whether or not you're under bug attack.
These entomological Gil Grissoms cost about $150 per visit (some exterminators charge up to $200 for preliminary apartment checks.) And since they're not going to make extra cash off your infestation, they're promising accurate results—bug-sniffing canines have had some issues with false-positives.
This sounds all fun and science-y, but it seems like you're better off hunting for a bedbug yourself, rather than calling in a middleman. If that swab tests positive for buggies, you still have to shell out for an exterminator. And if it doesn't, you still have to suffer through a sleepless 24 hours while you wait for the results, whereas an exterminator's visual inspection will yield you an all-clear immediately.
What would be really great, though, is if science could come up with some way to determine whether that suspicious red mark on your body is a bedbug bite, and not one of a gazillion other skin reactions you could be suffering. Sure, a three-bite formation is the telltale sign, but sometimes bedbugs don't bite in threes, and sometimes weird hives you get after exercising pop up in suspect formations. Apparently even dermatologists can't tell whether or not you've been bitten by a bedbug, but scientists have managed to create Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. Something is off with our society's priorities.
Ah, well. If you do find a suspicious insect in your apartment, save yourself $150 and consult this handy guide to bedbugs and their impostor bug friends.