Bedbugs Are "Liberated" in Southwestern China

The ancient Buddhist practice of releasing captive animals has stirred up controversy

Bed bugs!
Bed bug Cimex lectularius
They're coming to get you!CDC/ Harvard University

Go forth, thirsty bedbugs, and feast. An ancient Buddhist practice of freeing captive animals into the wild is now at the center of a controversy in China. Some Buddhists In the Southwestern province of Yunnan regularly release animals that they perceive as being held captive by people, in order to to cultivate kindness and compassion, but recent liberations have had quite the opposite effect. China Daily reports that one such release in April included bedbugs. While the intentions may be good, releasing creatures like bedbugs into the world seems less like an act of benevolence and more like biological warfare.

The practice is also believed to have led to the introduction of many invasive species into the fragile ecosystem of Yunnan, like that of the apple snail from South America, which has wreaked havoc on rice crops across Asia. Officials are worried that the unregulated releases—illegal in China—are giving rise to a black market in wildlife trafficking and hunting in Yunnan. The Forest Public Security Bureau in Kunming, the province’s capital, is investigating.