There are plenty of bed bugs in New York City these days – enough to put the Big Apple in third place among the most infested cities of the United States as of 2014, in fact. Tens of thousands of calls are logged yearly to the city’s bed bug help line, while maps of the infestation show the insects practically everywhere at the metropolis’ heart.
However there are good news for the residents of New York – the aggressive campaigns carried out by both regular people and the local health departments have cut back the number of calls by 12% over the last year. Nevertheless, there are still many more bed bugs in this city and the rest of the United States than there were just ten years ago, so it pays for inhabitants of New York to keep a sharp lookout so they can nip new infestations of these blood sucking pests in the bud, while their numbers are low.
Bed bugs owe some of their success to their origins in the natural world. The insects evolved to suck the blood of bats living in caves. Since bats are insect-eaters, this is an extremely dangerous lifestyle, especially for a creature as plump and juicy as the typical bed bug.
Bed bugs evolved to be very stealthy so they could survive feeding on efficient insectivores; moving carefully, not disturbing the host they are feeding on, and hiding in inaccessible cracks are all things they excel at thanks to natural selection. It is these bat-baffling adaptations that make the wingless insects so good at living in the “caves” where humans dwell, emerging to feed and melting away like tiny, six-legged ninjas before they can be seen and squashed.
Because they come out in the darkness and can’t clearly see where their prey is, this tiny bloodsuckers guide themselves to people by sensing carbon dioxide, which is released every time a warm-blooded creature exhales. This was even more necessary in the lightless caves where bats live, but it still serves the insects well in their stealthy nighttime expeditions, questing for blood.
New York City’s official response to the rising tide of bed bugs has been strong and effective. A three-digit bed bug help line, 311, has been established to report infestations and receive advice, as well as making sure the bed bug map for the metropolis has been properly updated.
Coordination between private citizens, government health officials, scientists, and exterminators, who handle this type of infestation, is a very powerful weapon in the war against bed bugs in New York City. This is true in the rest of the United States, too.
The city government created the NYC Bed Bug Advisory Board with Local Law 14 in 2009, tasked with planning a good campaign against the six-legged pests and getting people working together rather than wasting time and resources fighting each other in housing court over bed infestations.
Beyond the Advisory Board (some of whose members are entire departments of the Big Apple’s government), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development are also committed to helping the city’s residents push back successfully against the bed bug advance. Their educational efforts have also paid off, since most people now greet discovery of their unwanted insect guests with practical efforts to rid the bugs rather than panic – a far more constructive attitude.
Regardless of whether you are a homeowner, a landlord, or a tenant, routinely checking your home for bed bugs is a good way to find them before they become fully established. Since they can easily be carried into your house in boxes, grocery bags, and even the spines of library books, just keeping your home clean won’t keep them out, though a lack of clutter will reduce the number of places they can hide.
- Keep an eye out for extremely itchy bites, especially if they pop up in rows or clusters on the skin.
- Check your sheets for small rust-brown or maroon stains that come from dried blood and bed bug droppings.
- Shed skins of bed bugs sometimes give a clue to their presence – these are typically found along the seams, creases, tufts and folds of mattresses and box springs.
- Heavy bed bug infestations can give out an odor of rotting raspberries, which is strongest in the rooms they hide. Bringing in an exterminator who has a bed bug detecting dog – trained to pinpoint this scent – is an excellent way to ferret out a colony of these insects.
- There are some 1,000 licensed pest control companies in New York City, approved by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for bed bug control.
In the event you do find that bed bugs have set up housekeeping in your home, 311 is a help line, and you can find useful information and links on the Department’s web page at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/html/home/home.shtml.
Individuals who are traveling to New York for leisure or business are advised to take precautionary steps to protect yourself. Carefully inspect the mattress after checking into your hotel room, looking for either bugs, bug skeletons or stains. Keep the luggages off the floor and off the bed, either on a luggage rack or a bathroom counter. For more information about avoiding bed bugs while traveling, read this post…
Quick Bed Bug Resources For Residents In New York
- D-I-Y and commerical solutions to treat and protect yourself against bed bugs: http://www.getridofbedbugsathome.com/bed-bug-supply
- Bed bug hotline: 311
- Bed bug page at the NYC Health Department site: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/bedbugs/html/home/home.shtml
- Bed bug map and registry: http://bedbugregistry.com/metro/nyc/