Bed bugs are often a hazard of urban living. Massive infestations of the critters have occasionally taken place in New York City, including in 2010 and again a decade later, although reportedly the coronavirus caused bedbugs to be less of a problem of late.
Now, there are reports of a bedbug problem in a very non-urban setting—on a submarine.
According to the Navy Times, there has of late been a bedbug infestation on the fast-attack submarine Connecticut and some sailors told the publication that “the boat’s command has been slow to fix the problem.”
Connecticut is a Seawolf-class submarine, one of only three elite subs the U.S. Navy relies on.
The problem has been traced to the vessel’s participation in the Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 exercise in the Arctic Ocean, nearly a year ago. It’s still an issue now, after the boat came back to its home port in Washington state in December.
“We’ve had bed bugs for a year now,” an anonymous petty officer told Navy Times. “Sailors complained about getting bitten in the racks.”
“People were getting eaten alive in their racks,” the petty officer said.
“The best way to put it would probably be ‘employee abuse,’ but that’s not really a thing in the Navy, I guess,” another officer said.
“They’re using us as live bait…to see if (the bed bugs) are still there,” another petty officer told the Navy Times. “The upper chain of command isn’t going to sleep in those racks. They’re going to make the lower enlisted do it.”
A Navy spokesperson, however, stated that despite the March timeline, the boat’s command didn’t report it until December, and the “physical presence” of the bugs wasn’t reported until February.
“The Navy takes the safety and health of its sailors very seriously,” the spokesperson added, per Navy Times.
“After two applications of Navy approved pesticide sprays, and application of a long-acting diatomaceous dust...entomologists recommended repopulation of berthing,” she said. “All appropriate countermeasures have been taken with plans firmly in place to address further breakouts underway if they occur.”
According to WebMD, bedbugs are “small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color… Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.”
Symptoms of bed bugs include blood stains on sheets or pillowcases, “Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses,” and “an offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.