Even though they live in the City of Brotherly Love, bed bugs in Philadelphia are anything but fraternal or affectionate. They are just as likely to sink a hungry beak into a human vein as any of their kindred elsewhere in the world – and, in fact, this metropolis has the dubious distinction of having the worst bed bug infestation of any in the United States. Like the scofflaws they are, these insects have even colonized some of Philadelphia’s largest police stations.
The statistic on the city with the worst bed bug infestation is based on the number of confirmed reports per month, not a subjective measurement. Philadelphia’s confirmed reports have ousted New York City from first place in 2012 to 2014.
The area of city inhabited by the insects expanded, but the population also exploded in regions that were already infested for years. Areas already full of bed bugs saw a 300% rise in confirmed sightings of the vile six-legged bloodsuckers, while the newly colonized sectors of the metropolis witnessed reports increase by 1,500% over the first half of the year. The exceptional heat waves of 2014’s spring and summer probably helped more eggs hatch.
Bed bugs owe their success, in part, to both their sneakiness and their mobility. They usually won’t emerge while the lights are on, unless they are overcrowded or you manage to drive them from their lair. They are silent creatures and communicate by chemical scents, or pheromones, so there is no cricket-like chirp or fly-like buzz to help you pinpoint them. They can also detect where mammals are by the carbon dioxide they exhale.
It’s futile to move to a different sleeping spot in your home in an attempt to escape the insects. With the huge plume of carbon dioxide you release every time you breathe out, you might as well be hanging out a vast neon sign stating “fine dining here” regardless of where you are lying. The bugs will soon zero in on you, and since they can crawl and scuttle fast, they will soon reach you from any other part of the house.
What is more, moving to a new sleeping spot makes it harder to eliminate the infestation from your home. It’s easiest for exterminators to kill bed bugs if they are all living in the same room. If you shift to another room, however, some of the bugs will stay at the original place, and others will move to nearer crevices. So, instead of one colony, you’ll end up with three, four, or even more scattered through your rooms, making a much bigger task for pest control specialists.
The rise of bed bugs in Philadelphia prompted the city – like so many others – to form a bed bug task force early on. This task force was meant to study the problem with the help of health officials and entomologists, and come up with a plan for coordinating between citizens and the government to fight back against the small, scuttling invaders.
However, the department of health now seems to have little interest in the arthropod problems confronting their bed bug infested city. Their website contains no lists of approved exterminators and no advice or information for tenants and homeowners struggling with the bugs. There is only one brief paragraph on the site instructing visitors to look for a pest control service in the telephone directory.
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For homeowners and tenants, you can figure out if you have a bed bug problem, and deal with it effectively, using these tips:
- Bites are the infallible sign of bed bugs. In the absence of bites, you know that you are free of bed bugs; if you see an insect while experiencing no bites, it is either a random beetle from outside, or a poultry bug. If you get multiple very itchy bites in lines or clumps, you probably have bed bugs.
- Inspect the bedding and bed linens for any signs of dried blood stains or dark red or brown spots. The dark spots are the droppings of the bugs. Shed skins of the bugs may also be found along the seams and folds of the mattress or in cracks and crevices of furniture that are beside the bed.
- To get rid of bed bugs, consider using a variety of removal methods since pesticides alone will not likely solve the pest problem. After ascertaining or confirming the presence of bed bugs, DE-cluttered the room and start vacuuming. If possible, employ intense heat on the temperature-sensitive bugs, such as washing any infested bedding in a dryer for 20 minutes, steam cleaning bedding and sofas; caulking holes to prevent future bed bug invasions as well as using specialty mattress covers designed to contain bed bugs.
- If you think you have a bed bugs problem, don’t panic. Call in exterminators to handle them.
If you have bed bugs and your landlord refuses to carry out an extermination, or if an abandoned building nearby is spawning with bed bugs, you can contact the city government at 311 or call the bed bug information line at 1-215-685-9009. The second number is mostly used to dispense bed bug advice. With a bit of resourcefulness, knowledge, or with the help of a good exterminator, you can overcome the challenge of bed bugs in Philadelphia and make your small corner of the City of Brotherly Love a bit more pleasant, at least.
Individuals or tourists who are traveling around Philadelphia, it is recommended to be cautious and that you thoroughly inspect the hotel room and bed for any signs of bed bugs. If you are not sure on how to go about it, read this post on how to check for bed bugs.
In this 6 minute video, University of Pennsylvania junior Stephanie Lamb details a research project mapping bed bug infestation in Philadelphia and shares her epidemiological experience dealing with the bugs.
Quick Bed Bug Resources For Residents Living In Philadelphia
- D-I-Y and commerical solutions to treat and protect yourself against bed bugs: http://www.getridofbedbugsathome.com/bed-bug-supply
- Bed bug information line: 1-215-685-9009
- Hotline for complaints (if landlords refuse to handle bed bug problems): 311
- Online 311: http://www.phila.gov/li/Pages/ReportaProblem.aspx (can also be used to report abandoned buildings infested with bed bugs)