Bed Bugs in New York City

Before a person can prevent an infestation, it is important to know what they are, how they live and what they look like. Once you know what they look like, hopefully, before you bring them home, you can avoid staying in hotels that have them.

Simply, they are small parasites that live in mattresses and other types of soft furniture. They are nocturnal and are hard to spot during the day. They are oval-shaped, and once they have fed on blood are reddish brown in color. If you ever see an insect in your home or hotel room that is flattish, oval-shaped and reddish brown, you should catch it and try to identify it.

These parasites feed on blood, primarily human blood. This is a major creep factor is associated with them beyond simply having a home pest. They come out at night, crawl on your sleeping body and make a meal of you. Some people may find the vampire myth sexy but nobody, except maybe an entomologist, can say the same about these insects.

For most people the idea of having them is completely repulsive. They are sneaky, gross and hated around the world. They attack people when they are at their most vulnerable and leave few signs behind.

gross bed bug

The Resurgence in New York City

New York City is #1 in many things, but it was not prepared to become the American city with the heaviest infestation. There is a simple reason for this resurgence. International travel gives these bugs new homes quickly. New York City is certainly a major travel hub. Vacationers head to NYC but the main culprit of the outbreak is people who travel for business.

Vacationers simply go from their home to a hotel and back. They are much less likely to drop these parasites in enough hotels to cause a major problem; although vacationers are often a victim, and bring them home unknowingly. People in business spend weeks or months hotel hopping. As our society has become global these bugs have staged a comeback.

The U.S. almost got rid of them early in the last century. Then international travel became more common and people were staying in hotels in countries that were still dealing with them. People would go to different countries and bring home a little something extra in their luggage and clothing. The U.S. now has a new booming industry – eradication of these pests.

How to Find a Bed Bug-Free Hotel in New York City

New York City may have them but how does one avoid staying in a hotel that has an active infestation. The insidious thing about these pests is that they do not always live in the “flea-bag motels.” It would be easy to stay in a slightly more expensive hotel but that is no guarantee of an infestation-free accommodation. Actually, the more expensive hotels are just as likely to have infestations.

With the Internet age in full force there is a website that is devoted to the places with reported infestations. The Bed Bug Registry is a website where people can report their sightings and experiences. People can use this free resource to avoid bringing home an unwanted souvenir.

Does My New York City Hotel Have These Pests?

These insects are sneaky little devils. They only come out in the dark unless the infestation is extreme. When you turn on the lights of your hotel room, they will quickly scurry away. Although it is hard to spot them, they do leave visible signs behind.

The most prevalent signs are blood smears on the sheets and waste along the bedrails. They hide behind the headboard, along the railings of the bed and between the mattress and bedsprings. If you cannot spot the little beasties, you should become accustomed to the other signs. These pests shed skin and leave fecal matter behind. This looks like a pile of pepper or coarse ash in areas where they nest.

People may not want to spend their evenings hunting for these bugs but that is better than bringing them home. Just strip the bed, check under the box springs and glance behind the headboard. If you see any signs, ask for a new room or find a new hotel.

Travel Tips for Avoidance

Normally the vehicles that you ride in are not a problem when it comes to these insects. Places where people sleep or gather cause problems. There are things that you can do to keep the bugs from coming home with you. The use of a hard suitcase is one of the best things that one can do to keep them from hitching a ride home with you. Putting your clothing into a re-sealable plastic bag before putting them into the suitcase keeps them out of your clothing.

Remember that the hotels are there to serve you. You can ask them about their policy. How often do they inspect? Do they have an exterminator come in on a regular basis? Is the housekeeping staff knowledgeable? Asking these questions will not offend the staff at a quality hotel.

Once you are in the room, you want to keep your suitcase on top of a table or dresser. You should keep your clothes packed for a brief stay. You do not have to put your clothes in the bureau or closet.

When you come home unpack in a room that plenty of hard light-colored surfaces. Shake out and wash your clothing before putting them away. Inspect your luggage. Pay close attention to the handle and wheel area of the suitcase.

Avoiding an Infestation

Even if you accidentally stay overnight in a hotel that has an active infestation there are ways to prevent bringing them home. Wash everything that is washable prior to re-entering your home. This includes clothing, linens and bags that contain clothes. If you cannot wash it, wipe it down. If you cannot wipe it down, put it in a bag for a year. That may sound extreme but these insects can survive for an entire year without feeding again.

Hotels are not the only place that one can pick up these bugs. Guests to your home can bring them in; children can get them at sleepovers or at camp and you can even get them by picking up a castoff piece of furniture that someone left at the side of the street. The owner of that free couch or mattress may have thrown it away because of bugs. Clean every previously owned item that comes into your home.

Ok I Have Them – Now What?

Even the most cautious people may still end up with a hitchhiker in their suitcase. Anyone can get them but you need to get rid of them as quickly as possible. The easiest way to rid your home of these pests is to contact a pest control company and let them deal with it. You can try DIY extermination but they are very hard to kill. Only a few chemicals will work on them. If you use the right pest killer but miss a few bugs, you will be right back where you started.

Choosing the Best Pest Control Company in New York City

Talk to your neighbors. One of the best ways to find the best service is to find out whom your neighbor uses. Sure, it may be a little embarrassing but you do not have to be too specific about why you need a pest company.

Check the ads of the company. If they do not specifically mention these bugs, they may not be experienced their eradication. Ask questions of your pest control company. Make full use of your free consultation and inspection prior to making a decision. Do not listen to grandiose claims. It is difficult to get rid of these bugs. A reputable company will not claim that they can get rid of your problem with one visit.

When the pest company comes to treat your home, they will give you some homework. All homeowners need to do their part by following the instructions that the pest control company suggests. Remember, they are the professionals and you are paying for that knowledge. Follow their advice.

Will They Make Me Sick?

Although they bite, they do not transmit any diseases. However, some people are allergic to the bites. This can cause red and itchy circles to appear on the body. A little cortisone cream will control the itching but the only way to avoid bites is to rid your home of the infestation. Severe scratching of the bites may potentially lead to an infection but this is unrelated to the bugs themselves. If you itch until you break the skin, wash the sore area with soap and water to avoid infection.

The bites normally occur in clusters. There will be a line or collection of little circles on a part of the body. If you notice an unexplainable “rash” on your body that presents itself as itchy circles, check for an infestation. The inner arms, face and neck are prime feeding spots. These areas are often left uncovered during sleep and are easy places for the bugs to feed.

How is New York City Dealing with this Epidemic?

With the high number of infestations occurring in New York City the city has had to put a few recommendations into place to help combat the problem. Disposing of infected material is a major problem. When people put household items at the curb for the New York City sanitation department to pick up, people who may need the items salvage them for their own use. This spreads the infestation from home to home.

When disposing of a household item that has an active bug population New York City recommends the owner put a sign on the item that announces that it contains bed bugs. This gives the potential new owner a heads up as to what they may be bringing home with their new treasure. If the person disposing of the item can place it into a trash bag, they should do so. This keeps the bugs from leaving and keeps people from knowing what you are throwing away.

People should cut or damage larger items prior to placing them at the curb. A large slice in a mattress, box springs or couch will make it less attractive to scavengers. Do not bring new items into the home until the infestation has been eradicated. Failure to do so just gives them new places to hide and breed. An infested item is not something that one should donate. Giving to charity is great but giving something that will simply cause additional problems to the person you are trying to help is not very nice.

Apartment owners in New York City have the additional problem of keeping them from moving from apartment to apartment. Ask all tenants to report an infestation to the building management immediately. The owner or manager of the building will then be able to call an exterminator in to handle the problem. One should inspect all vacant apartments prior to finding a new tenant. It is easier to treat an empty apartment instead of one that is occupied.

Dealing with Them in Shelters and Group Homes in New York City

Places where people come to stay for short durations are typically hit hard. The homeless, elderly and medically vulnerable do not need the additional stress of suddenly discovering that their sanctuary is also a haven for these parasites. This is a sensitive issue but one that does need to be addressed.

It is much easier to prevent an infestation than it is to treat one. All staff in any group living situation should be trained to interview new guests. The home should develop a regular set of questions that pinpoint possible carriers while allowing the person answering the questions to maintain their dignity and self-respect. Staff should ask the questions in a respectful and compassionate manner. When one feels as though someone is interrogating them, they may not give truthful answers.

Keeping bugs out can mean getting rid of plush and upholstered furniture. Bed frames should be metal, plastic and metal furnishing and no headboards are the best defense against them finding a hiding place. Linens and anything made of wood should be white. It is easier to spot them on a light colored surface. Box springs should be in a plastic sleeve. Do not use anything made of wicker. The open weave of wicker gives them too many places to hide.

Make eradication part of the culture of the home. Talk openly about them and encourage all residents to report any that they see. Getting rid of the taboo and shame associated will go far toward an open discourse within the home.

Have an exterminator on contract. If you have, or have had a problem, keep your exterminators coming by. They can check for pests and correct any problems early.

NYC’s Problem

Reports of bugs being spotted in New York City public schools have parents concerned. The schools are required by law to report any instances. The infestations are not severe but do show just how prevalent they are. The schools claim that there are just a few bugs here and there but people should still be on the lookout.

Nobody expects to get these bugs from their movers. The surprising fact that movers are spreading them shocks people moving to a new home. The bugs hitch a ride in the moving truck and just wait for a comfy sofa to come in. This is the type of housewarming gift nobody wants or needs. It is important to ensure that you use a quality moving company. Many small unreliable companies out there are more than willing to take your money without offering a great service. Check the references of any moving company that you may be thinking of hiring.

According to ABC News, tourism is being adversely affected by these bugs. The Empire State Building and Bloomingdales, both top tourist attractions, have had recorded these bugs being spotted. When people read about this, they sometimes choose to take their vacation dollars elsewhere. People simply do not want to vacation is an area that has such creepy crawlies creeping around. A city that gets a reputation for being unclean or buggy quickly drops on the list of potential places to visit.

Myths and Facts

They do not bite if the lights are on. This is a myth. While they are most active at night, they will bite if the lights are on and there is a tasty body part handy.

Using pesticides will eradicate an infestation. This is a myth. The chemicals will not get into all the areas where they reside. You need to do a careful visual inspection and properly clean all infested rooms and items.

If an item is infested, the only option is to throw it away. This is a myth. If you can clean it, you can get rid of the bugs. If you cannot clean it, bag and store it for one year to control a new outbreak.

They are not known to spread disease. This is a fact. This was previously mentioned as a fact but bears repeating. While they are annoying and gross most experts believe that they do not carry illness.

Their bites give you itchy welts. This is both true and a myth. People that are allergic to bug bites will have a strong reaction, while those that are not allergic often times will have no reaction to the bite.

You cannot see one. This is a myth. This bug is small but is not microscopic. They are difficult to see only because of their color and that they are nocturnal creatures.

One visit from an exterminator is all you need for eradication of an infestation. This is a myth. Eradication and control requires a minimum of two visits. The exterminator should return to ensure that all bugs and their eggs are dead.

You can get a quote from a qualified exterminator over the phone. This is a myth. The price of a visit will be determined by the extent of the infestation and the size of your property. A good pest control company should offer a free consultation and then give a price estimate.

Only dirty people get them. This is a myth. Anyone can get them. The test of the sanitation of a home is how long they remain.

Famous People and Places Prone to Infestation

  • President Bill Clinton’s Office in Harlem
  • Abercrombie & Fitch’s South Street Seaport store
  • The New York Public Library in Mid-Manhattan although the library denies the report

If you find them in your home, you are in good company. When you discover them and the owner of the property does nothing about it, call the NYC 311 line and report them. Everyone needs to do as much as they can to help combat the epidemic in New York City. It is everyone’s responsibility to help. Remember to be on the lookout for these pests, check your home and always use common sense in your travels.

One Response to Bed Bugs in New York City

  1. Megan says:

    Just wanted to add that New York City passed a law that if you are renting an apartment, landlords are legally required to tell you about the building’s history with bedbugs. Let them know you know about this law. Also *in theory* your PCO will tell you a course of action. Your PCO may also “just spray some stuff left over from a roach job in another apartment.” Educate yourself!

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