Recently, one of the biggest cities in the world was hit by an epidemic that threatened to spread stigma and fear all throughout both the rich and poor through insects that feed on human blood; this isn’t some science-fiction movie, but rather a problem of pestilent bed bugs. NYC fell victim to this virulent pest starting sometime about three to four years ago (it’s hard to pin down exactly when but judging from the outbreak of reports and spikes in bed bug extermination services and protective method sales) and has been battling the pest ever since. While the war on bed bugs in NYC has been long and hard fought, it is far from over with sales of bed bug products continuing to rise and government housing authorities backed up for months on end making house calls to eradicate this public health nuisance.
Simply water as in War of the Worlds
- Unfortunately, because this isn’t some sci-fi movie where the cure is simply water as in War of the Worlds or exposing the insects to radiation like in Godzilla movies, the bed bugs NYC epidemic must be battled on an individual, case by case basis.
- That means going house to house, room to room, bed to bed in an expensive and exhaustive process that leaves many traumatized from the experience, let alone the itchy and unsightly blotches and bites caused by the miniscule bed monsters.
- Add to that the embarrassment and social stigma that come along with having bed bugs and you can see why this silent epidemic has gained so many headlines lately, even though everyone is embarrassed to admit they have or had bed bugs in NYC.
- But that silence is what makes the epidemic grow and what makes this problem something that isn’t going to be easily eradicated unless public knowledge is spread.
What Are Bed Bugs?
- Bed bugs are tiny wingless, flightless insects that belong to the family Cimicidae (Cimex lectularius) and feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals.
- They are oval-shaped and flat, only growing to be about as big as the seed of a pear or apple, plus their light color makes them even harder to see.
- Add to the fact that they only come out at night when the lights are off, take a few quick bites of your flesh to gorge themselves on your blood (turning them dark red in color) and then scurry back to the cracks and crevices of your floor boards and walls or the inner depths of your box springs and mattresses, or even into your carpet, electronics and clothing—and it becomes easy to see why these little critters and their bed bug bites are so problematic.
Where Do Bed Bugs in NYC Come From?
- The common misconception that occurs from bed bug infestations of the magnitude seen in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs is that they come from the poor who are huddled together in tight quarters, often in low income housing.
- This is mainly because it is the poor who cannot afford the bed bug exterminators and protection methods, instead raising a public outcry through local media sources and thus bringing our attention to the problem.
- But in fact, the problem of bed bugs in NYC has been attributed by top pest control experts (including many PhDs in the field) to the upper class who leads a jet setting life, often traveling to parts of the world where bed bugs are numerous.
- Staying at hotels that keep their infestation problems under wraps so as not to scare off the clientele, these travelers come home to New York City and often unpack their luggage on the bed; all it takes is one or two bed bugs and an infestation of the mattress is soon an unavoidable inevitability.
- Now, add to this New York City being one of the biggest tourist meccas in the world with millions of people flying in from every corner of the planet to visit each year, and it becomes easy to see how bed bugs in NYC could become such a problem.
- Add to the mix the 8 million or so residents that live in close proximity to each other, sprinkle in the fact that people don’t want to talk about bed bugs once they have them (even when they finally get rid of bed bugs) and NYC becomes ground zero for the perfect bed bug infestation recipe.
Why Are Bed Bugs So Hard to Kill?
- As mentioned above, the night feeding habits of bed bugs in NYC, along with their difficulty to spot, combined with the stigma and silence surrounding them makes bed bugs very hard to kill.
- Add these variables to the fact that bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding and that the costs to exterminate bed bugs can reach well into the range of thousands of dollars, and the longevity and ability to survive of this scourge becomes explainable.