Still Scratching the NYC Bedbug Itch?

The NYC bedbug epidemic is still going strong. What can be done to help people avoid the sleep-stealing parasites in New York and in other cities?
by | September 21, 2010 AT 6:00 PM
Close-up of a mattress
robotpolisher/Flickr CC

The day I read our September issue's article on NYC's bedbug infestation, I made sure to fluff my bed sheets before going to bed (as if that would help). Even though Maryland is a few hundred miles away from the bedbug epicenter, the Big Apple's outbreak had those nasty, little blood-suckers crawling in my mind (figuratively). And as the air started cooling down and leaves started showing hints of yellow and red -- at least here in the Washington, D.C., area -- I began exhaling my sigh of relief, as Bed Bugs NYC's specialist Mark Brown said bedbugs tend to slow down and hibernate in the colder months.

Then, with the start of autumn only a few days away, NYC's five-story Niketown shopping building was overrun by bedbugs. My exhale turned into a gasp, and I continued my paranoia-fueled bedbug research.

The city received about 33 percent more calls about bedbugs in 2010 than they did in 2009. So, what can NYC -- or any city -- really do to help curb this sleep-stealing issue? Only a few weeks ago, Gov. David Paterson signed the Bedbug Disclosure Act into law, requiring landlords to provide a one-year history of bedbug infestations to potential tenants. That helps with people looking for homes. But what about the non-residential buildings?

Many commercial buildings, like Niketown, have fallen victim to the wrath of bedbugs in NYC. Since many of these places are tourist hotspots, I wonder how many of these bedbugs might have become secret little souvenirs for unsuspecting visitors to take home. Even the city's call center dedicated to handling bedbug complaints had to be fumigated for bedbugs.

Just in case you think I'm crazy for spending so much time researching bedbugs, I would like to point out that I'm not alone. It turns out that references to the little pests in reviews on a popular trip-planning website have jumped 12 percent this year.

So what can state and local governments do to prevent or remedy such an epidemic? Aside from dousing cities with bedbug-killing gases, I am pretty stumped. In the meanwhile, if you're planning visiting NYC -- or any city -- and want to continue on with your bedbug-free lifestyle, there's a website that hosts a public database of user-submitted bedbug reports. Hopefully the user database updates faster than the bugs spread.

Andy Kim
Andy Kim | Former Staff Writer