Is “Bedbugs” one word or two?

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According to Google’s ngram viewer, a measure of word frequency in scanned books, “bedbugs” as a single word is used far more frequently:

ngram

Yet Google trends, which measures search terms, reports the converse:

trends

So authors are writing about bedbugs, but the general populace is searching for bed bugs.

Which is correct?

The convention among American entomologists is to treat common names where the insect category (“bug”) is correct as separate words, but to combine names into single words when the insect category is incorrect. Example: the house fly is really a fly, but a firefly is really a beetle. Since bed bugs belong to Hemiptera- the true bugs- then in our country, at least, the appropriate spelling is bed bug as two words.

Score one for the internet.

 

14 thoughts on “Is “Bedbugs” one word or two?”

  1. Hahaha! This is fantastic! What is really curious to me, however, are the long-term peaks. They both peak at the onset of the World Wars! Why on Earth would this be? Does the populous become more concerned with ALL enemies during times of tension? That is the best guess I could come up with?

  2. I checked the Web; indeed, general usage seems to follow the rule of American entomologists, for example:
    Correct taxon: rhinoceros beetle, honey bee, Argentine ant, spider mite
    Incorrect taxon: antlion, dragonflies, damselflies, Firefox (the Web-browser)

    But I also found exceptions:
    Spanish fly (meloid beetle)
    bumblebee (a true bee, but less frequently spelled bumble bee, for example at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblebee)

    Navy Seals should actually be navyseals, and Detroit Tigers should be detroittigers?
    Or does the rule only apply to arthropods?

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  4. I have an alternative hypothesis. Bedbugs has priority as the specific common name for Cimex lectularius. I seem to remember finding it in the OED, but not having it with me in my backpack (I’m at Guyatt Parkon the Brisbane River in St Lucia listening to Butcherbirds and wondering what that Polyrachis-like ant may be), you’ll just have to take my unreliable word for it. Then along came the imperialist US Ent Soc demanding order in common names.

    Therefore, the more erudite, e.g. those who can write books, tend to use the correct name. Google Trends is just a chimera of loose usage and slavish ESA followers.

  5. My understanding is that people awareness of bed bugs grew during the wars as they became more prevalent due to the sheer amount of people being shipped around the world, after the wars the migrants and displace returned to their homes and a period of less travel ensued. Also the fact that DDT was being used up until the early 70’s perhaps people after the wars were not so concerned.

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  8. After 5 nights suddenly one evening i found three itchy bites on my shoulder. On inspection i found a dead bed bug (it’s body dry and 2 pieces) in a corner of my hotel room. I immediately changed to another room one level lower. I am scared i might have a bed bug in my bag or suitcase. I read your tip about leaving your bags outside your house. But I live in a small apartment in a building complex so I don’t know where I should keep them. Can I put my entire bags in plastic bags and spray from top first and carefully open the bags inside the plastic bag so that the bugs can’t escape? I have used rubbing alcohol to spray and kill bed bugs in the past. What would you spray them with?

  9. It’s interesting that you note that the cleanliness of a person won’t affect your chances of having bed bugs or not. I’ve actually been very curious to know whether or not I have ever had bed bugs, because there have been times when people would tell me to wash my sheets because of bed bugs and I never noticed bed bugs in my sheets during times that my sheets went months without cleaning. Maybe I haven’t noticed and it’s finally time I get in touch with some exterminators…
    Bedbugs! Bed bugs as the name suggests is more of a misunderstood small critters mainly in residential homes. Many bedbugs infestation in private homes goes unnoticed due to perception for fear of being dirty, unclean, unresponsive, but these miths are not true. Bedbugs can leave anywhere whether spotlessly clean or filthy, dirty homes bedbugs will thrive to their best unsparingly. People try to link bedbugs with myths that bedbugs cannot be seen, bedbugs prefer unsanitary conditions, if mattresses are thrown away you will get rid of bedbugs, bedbugs are only found in beds, bedbugs transmit diseases. Bed bugs infestation is conclusively extra complex to eliminate permanently. Solution is once you have detected, suspected a bedbugs infestation look for bedbugs professional exterminator fast before they spread to other households.
    Bed bugs are a very resilient parasite and can live up to five months without human blood. In one case, it is believed a bed bug lived up to a year and a half without eating. Bed bugs only approach humans to suck their blood and always attack at night. During the day, they hide out in nooks close to the bed. It is difficult to know you are being bitten because the parasite numbs the area it bites. Most people realize they have a bite a while later when they notice the itch.

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