Move over alligators in the sewers, we’re still talking about bed bugs in the subway!

Here’s a follow-up to last night’s post about bed bugs being found in three NYC N train subway cars this week:

If video does not appear above, click here to view it: Fox New York News

Fox News NY talked to entomologist Lou Sorkin (a Bedbugger Forums regular) about the implications of bed bugs being found in the subway crew area of several trains.

We still don’t know if any of the N train bed bugs were found in passenger areas of the subway cars, as the Fox reporter in the clip above notes.

And there’s been no suggestion so far that the MTA is going any further in looking for bed bugs in the subway, beyond investigating after bed bugs are found.

I guess that means, “if you see something, say something.” But we know you would.

If the city really wants to help curb the spread of bed bugs, teaching employees to look for them (and what to do if they’re found) is a great idea. And an inexpensive one. And we know just the guy to do it.

1 comment

The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that bed bugs have been found in three separate N subway trains, which have since been “fumigated” (I am assuming this means — as in the common parlance — “treated with pesticides,” rather than fumigation per se).

According to the New York Daily News,

Two trains were taken out of service Sunday after the unwanted riders were found onboard some cars, officials said. And on Tuesday, a third N train was also sent to the Coney Island yard in Brooklyn for fumigation. Some of the bugs were found in seat cushions in train cabs, which are used by conductors and motormen, sources said.

The presence of bed bugs in employee-only areas of the subway trains suggests they were brought in by an employee or employees. Hopefully no one has taken bed bugs home from work.

It’s not clear whether bed bugs were also found in these instances in public areas of the subway cars.

It’s also not clear whether additional trains on additional lines are being searched at this point, or whether the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will wait for someone to notice bed bugs and complain before inspecting a particular train.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard reports of bed bugs in the NYC subway.

Let’s hope the MTA has become more pro-active about looking for them. If they haven’t, now’s a good time.

Update (8/6):

Here’s an update, with video of Fox News NY talking to Lou!

Image credit: “10:23 Enter here for the N, R and W trains” by Gary Denham on flickr.com used under a Creative Commons Attribution/No-Derivatives License.

12 comments

It’s that time of year, folks, bed bug season!

Sure, bed bugs happen year round, but they do tend to multiply and spread a bit more quickly in the warmer months, due to various factors. This means the pest management professionals are busy, and the consumers are too-often itchy (and hot, which makes itching worse).

Add in the fact that summer can be a slow time for news, which means the media is doing everything it can to report bed bug stories. If the local news haven’t got any hot bed bug stories, they will sometimes try and come up with something anyway.

Today we have this example, from the Salem News (in Salem, Missouri): the title, “Bed bugs are a year-round problem” suggests that we’re probably not going anywhere new and unchartered.

And the first three paragraphs do not disappoint. They note that bed bugs are nothing new, are found locally, and are a year-round problem.

(Yawn!)

But wait, here it comes, paragraph four:

“The best and easiest way to rid your home of bedbugs is to use a hair dryer to kill the bedbugs in your furniture, [Carol Shipley of Shipley’s Pest Control] said. You can also buy spray to kill them, but this isn’t always effective the first time. If it’s a severe infestation, you may have to get rid of your bed and burn it to be rid of the bedbugs.”

Conair Pro Style 1200 BlowConair Pro Style 1200 Blow Dryer

(Image credit: Conair Pro Style 1200 Blow Dryer by Twitchery on flickr.com, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.)

 

Wow. There’s just so much going on there!

First, while a hair dryer does emit high heat which can kill bed bugs, the logistics of killing bed bugs with a hair dryer might be a bit impractical, and, depending how you use it, might even be hazardous. I don’t think we’ve heard any experts recommend a hair dryer for treating bed bugs.

A steamer would be a better choice than a hair dryer for killing bed bugs using heat. The back of your hand or a newspaper can be quite effective too.

And, yes, pesticides may require re-application, but that’s not a reason to eschew them. It is the reason pros will usually need to come back in 10-14 days and retreat. It stands to reason that do-it-yourselfers aren’t likely to kill bed bugs in one shot with spray pesticides either.

While we always recommend an experienced and knowledgeable professional be hired to treat for bed bugs if at all possible, if you need to do the bed bug treatment yourself, please do your research and be sure and get professional advice on using pesticides.

Finally, while experts tell us you usually do not need to discard belongings, keep in mind that if you do, “burning your bed” is probably not the best or safest way to do that, and I don’t know any experts who would recommend that.

I want to note that I don’t assume the advice in the article linked above was what was intended by the professionals cited in this story, since we all know that the news media often gets things a bit wrong.

However, it’s important to set the record straight on what works and to this end, I welcome further input in the comments below from readers (including experts) on the advice given in the Salem News story today.

15 comments

A tenant in Augusta, Georgia was horrified to find that after her building’s maintenance department treated her home for bed bugs, it smelled like kerosene.

She was right to be concerned, since applying kerosene is a dangerous and inappropriate method for treating bed bugs.

WRDW reports,

“They came in to spray for bed bugs, to exterminate for bed bugs, and this was almost going on two weeks, and the fumes from the machine got all over the apartment,” said [tenant Sonji Brantley].

She said maintenance at Fox Den Apartment off Wrightsboro Road used a chemical that smells like kerosene to treat her carpet for the pests. We arrived to find a pile of carpet sitting outside.

“If you smell it, you can smell the chemicals in it,” said Brantley. Workers were inside putting down new carpet.

(You can also view the video online at WRDW’s website.)

What’s with spraying the carpet?

As an aside, I’m not sure about the amount of attention given to the carpets here, since the pros on our forums don’t seem to talk much about treating carpets. The focus seems to be more on treating cracks and crevices.

Then again, if the maintenance crew were applying kerosene to treat for bed bugs, then it’s likely they don’t know a whole lot about this pest or how to get rid of it.

Thinking of using kerosene or gasoline? Don’t do it!

Kerosene is highly flammable and not a suitable treatment option for bed bugs. If your landlord uses a method like this, I recommend calling the local health and building departments to file a complaint.

Now, there’s always someone who comments on an article like this saying, “my grandparents used kerosene to treat bed bugs”. That may be so, but many people have burned their homes down using such methods. Don’t do it.

Gasoline treatment for bed bugs is thought to have been behind the infamous 1909 “crib fire” in Chicago, where 50 laborers died. (The laborers were living on a wooden structure — the “crib” — while working on a tunnel under Lake Michigan.)

There are many more effective and safer methods than kerosene and gasoline for treating bed bugs today. And yet this misguided approach is still common enough that the New York Fire Department has issued repeated warnings to city residents (for example in 2009 and 2011) that they shouldn’t use gasoline-based products to treat bed bugs.

Note also that in some places, like New York City, landlords have to hire a pest management professional to treat for bed bugs — they can’t just have a maintenance guy come in and spray (even if they’re using a legitimate pesticide). I’m not sure about the laws regarding this in Augusta, Georgia, where this story takes place.

Isopropyl Alcohol is also flammable

It’s worth reminding readers that 91% isopropyl alcohol use in treating bed bugs appears to be much more prevalent today than kerosene and gasoline, and is not without its dangers. While an effective contact killer for bed bugs, is also extremely flammable and numerous homeowners and tenants have started fires after using it.

For example, in 2012, up to 30 people were made homeless after a fire in Kentucky destroyed neighboring buildings, after a woman treated her sofa with alcohol.

During the period of 2009-2012, a Hamilton Co. Ohio man, a resident of Cincinnati’s Bond Hill, and an Avondale, Ohio woman, a Mount Carmel, Ohio tenant, and a Colerain Township, Ohio family all seem to have set their homes on fire in similar circumstances. And those are just a few examples.

Let’s not overlook the fact that the media coverage suggests these things seem to occur disproportionately in the Cincinnati area, a fact that suggests something about the availability of affordable bed bug treatment for homeowners and renters who have limited funds and live in the area.

It’s also important to note that in most or all of the above cases, a lit cigarette was involved, though it’s possible to start a fire in a flammable environment even without lighting a match or cigarette (electrical items can give off sparks, for example).

Do you need to do it yourself?

The bottom line is if your home needs bed bug treatment, there are more effective and safer methods than spraying alcohol everywhere or applying kerosene or gasoline. DIY methods can be effective, but you should choose those which never put your family, neighbors, or home in danger.

Consider methods like dry vapor steam (we have a FAQ on killing bed bugs with steam), and ask the volunteer experts on the forums about DIY treatment options. Do your research (our resources page is a good place to start, with links to free comprehensive guides to bed bugs and treatment).

4 comments

Bed bugs were found last week in the health center in the Greenville, Ohio Whirlpool plant, WDTN (2 NEWS) reports:

2 NEWS obtained a notice to employees that read in part, “We want to let you know that we had an isolated incident in the health center on Monday, June 9. There have been no other reports from any other areas since that time. A few bed bugs were found. There is no need to panic and this can be eliminated with minimal disruption.”

We’ve had many stories about bed bugs in the workplace, but this may be the first one involving a factory.

Bravo to Whirlpool for notifying employees immediately and being upfront about the issue and what is being done to address it.

According to 2 NEWS, the affected areas of the plant have been treated by pest management professionals twice and employees were asked to take belongings out of lockers so they could be sprayed. (Since the company makes washers and dryers, you’d think treating any stored clothing would be a breeze, right?)

The article also notes that the Darke County Health Department was going to follow up with an inspection of its own on Friday.

If the embedded video above does not load, you can watch this report on the 2 NEWS website.

The 2 NEWS article offers a list of “10 things people should know about bed bugs” which links to the CDC bed bugs FAQs. And unfortunately, it leads with this slightly misleading “fact”:

Bed bugs feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep

This is almost identical to the first point in the CDC FAQs, which begin with the point that, “Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep.”

It is true that bed bugs feed solely on the blood of people and animals, but to suggest this only occurs “while they sleep” is misleading. Bed bugs can feed on animals or humans which are awake, though this is most likely to happen if they are in a still and relaxed position– sitting in a bus, theater, or cafe seat, or reclining on a sofa watching TV, for example.

This is relevant, because a lot of business owners don’t understand why they should be concerned about bed bugs in their properties, since people don’t sleep there. And people with bed bugs at home also do not understand why isolating their beds will not prevent bed bugs biting them elsewhere in their homes. Some think only bedrooms need professional inspections and treatment, an approach which may mean the problem persists undetected in upholstered seating, for example.

Bed bugs will bite humans when and where they can. It’s easier when you’re sleeping, but it will happen when you’re awake if that’s the bed bugs’ only option.

Getting back to the Whirlpool story, overall this seems like a good response to the problem. I like how the company notified all workers and brought professionals in to treat (and not just bringing them in once, since follow-ups are often needed).

However, the article did not indicate if employees were also educated about what bed bugs, fecal stains, eggs and cast skins look like, so they can search at home. I think this is always a good thing for any workplace to do. Remember that bed bugs in the staff health center were brought in by someone who was exposed to bed bugs — an employee, a supplier, etc. It may be that one or more employees has bed bugs at home.

Some employers even offer to send inspectors to employees’ homes if needed. Though costly for the company, it is worth considering, since it may save money in the long run if it prevents bed bugs being brought in again by the same person or others.

7 comments

Think you have bed bugs? Short on cash? Commercial bed bug monitors (such as those in our FAQ) can cost $20 per bed or more.

The University of Florida has now produced a helpful video explaining how consumers can construct homemade interceptor bed bug traps.

(Click here to view the video if you don’t see it above.)

Bed bug traps, including interceptor or pitfall monitors of this type, can help determine if you have bed bugs before treatment, and help determine whether bed bugs are gone during and after treatment.

Of course, lots of people have made their own interceptor-style monitors. However, if you’re going to do it, there are some pitfalls (see what I did there?) and it’s best to learn from the experts.

Note that calling this type of monitors “bed bug traps” as the University of Florida folks are doing does not mean you are likely to catch all your bed bugs and eliminate a problem in this way (as the word “trap” may suggest). We usually prefer the term “monitor” to “trap” for this reason.

If you have bed bugs, in most cases you will need thorough treatment to eliminate the problem. The exception will be if you had a very new problem and small number of bed bugs, and got lucky in the sense that they happened to all walk through the monitor and get stuck. That might happen, but don’t count on it.

Note also that interceptor traps are not your only option and their use is — like so many things in the bed bug world — not without controversy.

Be sure and read our FAQ on bed bug monitors, which goes into some of the pros and cons of interceptor monitors and other monitoring methods.

6 comments

If you’re creative, and get bed bugs, this often leads to bed bugs getting into your music, comics, art, writing or films.

An interesting example is “How to live with bed bugs”, from John’s Movies.  The tongue-in-cheek film explains how to find bed bugs, bring them home, get your home treated (unsuccessfully), move, and discard your belongings, so that others may continue the cycle.

Note to current Bedbuggers: please don’t mistake the contents of the video for actual how-to advice.

Thanks to John Wilson of John’s Movies for allowing us to share this video, and to Chipp for bringing it to our attention in the forums.  If the video doesn’t load above, you can view it on YouTube

What do you think of the video? Please let us know in the comments below!

5 comments

The Khaleej Times reports that residents of Abu Shagara, a neighborhood of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates which is known for its used furniture shops, are calling for the stores to be relocated to non-residential areas due to concerns about rodents and insects, including bed bugs.

The Khaleej Times states,

Residents of areas popular for their used furniture shops are facing a peculiar problem: Rise in rodents and insects, which they believe is happening due to the old furniture stocked in the showrooms of their buildings in Sharjah. Affected areas include Immigration Road, areas around the Sharjah Civil Defence and Al Wahda Street.

Residents in these areas have filed complaints with the Sharjah Municipality about the health hazards they are facing due to the rise in rodents and bed bugs, but no action has been taken thus far. Concerned residents are demanding that the authorities shift the used furniture markets to non-residential areas to ensure safe and healthy environment for families.

It’s understandable that residents would not want to live near stores which had bed bugs, or other insect or rodent problems.

However, bed bugs pose a special problem that relocating secondhand shops won’t fully solve, because the pests will travel with customers and on items sold secondhand to any area of the city.

For this reason, more extreme steps need to be taken by shopowners to make sure items sold are not infested with bed bugs. The same article quotes a senior city official, who notes that

“Used furniture outlets and other establishments have to comply with the general cleanliness rules stipulated by [the Environment section of the Sharjah Municipality] and should be free from pests that are harmful to human health.”

Used furniture needs thorough treatment to ensure it is free of bed bugs and their eggs. And shopkeepers as well as officials may not be aware of how thoroughly the items must be treated.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to the UAE, of course.

Where I live in New York, the laws regarding sanitization of used mattresses may not be strict enough to ensure used mattresses which are being sold are truly bed bug-free (this 2010 article goes into why this is so). For example, here in NYC, one issue highlighted in the media has been the use of contact kill sprays, which only kill bed bugs that are sprayed directly.

It is possible to completely eliminate bed bugs and eggs using heat treatment in a container, or various kinds of fumigation in a container (if these are legal in the specific location).

However, if bed bugs are a problem in secondhand furniture shops in Sharjah, residents need to worry about more than where the stores are located.

2 comments

Have you heard the Berlin Wall Theory about bed bugs?

April 24, 2014

This is a short video news segment about Dr. Dini Miller’s lab at Virginia Tech and her grad students who work on bed bug research. video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player What struck me most was this soundbite from Dini Miller about DNA testing of bed bug populations:

9 comments Read the full article →

Bed bugs found in two locations at Northwest Territories hospital

April 24, 2014

Bed bugs were found in two different locations at Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, according to the CBC News article Bedbugs discovered at Yellowknife’s Stanton Hospital. Bed bugs were found in both the staff lounge and men’s locker rooms. Image by CambridgeBayWeather [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons According to CBC News,

3 comments Read the full article →

Bed bugs take BART train out of service

April 13, 2014

A BART train was temporarily taken out of service after a passenger complained about bed bugs crawling on his leg. The San Jose Mercury News reports, On Thursday, a rider got to work and said he found some bedbugs on his leg after getting on a train at 19th Street in Oakland, said BART spokeswoman […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Smoking bed bugs? Truth or hoax?

April 11, 2014

Are kids getting high from smoking bed bugs?!? The maker of this video would have you think so:   The video has gone viral in the last week or so.

9 comments Read the full article →