Lexington, KY vs. New York, NY: a tale of two bedbugged cities

by nobugsonme on October 15, 2006 · 17 comments

in 311, activism, bed bugs, kentucky, lexington, new york, usa

Let’s consider, again, the differences between New York, NY and Lexington, KY:

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader of 10/14/2006, Lexington, KY had a huge increase in reported cases of bed bugs in the last few years:

Complaints about bedbugs in Lexington have almost tripled since 2005, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department said yesterday, and it warned residents to take precautions against a problem that is growing here and nationwide.

Public health officials said they’ve investigated 19 complaints about bedbugs in various areas of Lexington so far this year, compared to seven complaints in all of 2005. In response, the health department has formed a task force, in cooperation with the Urban County Government, to start distributing educational pamphlets, spokeswoman Jessica Cobb said.

Meanwhile, much larger New York, NY also had a huge increase in reported cases of bed bugs in the last few years:

In the last fiscal year, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development received 4,638 complaints about bedbugs in rental housing — nearly five times as many in the previous year.

Lexington: 19 complaints last year; NYC: 4,638 complaints last year. In New York, it is notable that these 4,638 cases only represent tenants who reported cases to the city. Homeowners with infestations would not call 311 to report bed bugs. And most tenants wouldn’t either; the normal course of action when a tenant has a pest, is for the tenant to call the landlord or superintendent. I would never think of calling 311 unless my landlord did not respond to a complaint. In short, 4,638 is the tip of the iceberg. I’d be surprised if there were not 10 times as many tenants with infestations who did not call 311. And many more homeowners, who would never have call to report their home’s infestation to a city agency.

Lexington 2000 (human) population: 260512; NYC 2000 (human) population: 8008278.

There are almost 31 times as many people in NYC as in Lexington.

There were 244 times as many reports of bed bug infestations in the last year in NYC compared to Lexington.

New York’s reported infestations are up five times in one year.

Lexington’s are up three times in one year.

And yet the New York City government, after 4,638 reported cases, is not doing anything; our short-sighted city officials recently claimed poor people should have the right to save money by purchasing used mattresses, a known cause of the spread of bed bugs.

And the government in Lexington, after 19 reported cases, is spearheading a leafleting campaign, to educate the populace.


1 deblynn October 15, 2006 at 8:47 am

On Friday I phoned WABC radio talk show “Ask the Mayor”..I spoke to Mayor Bloomberg who appears to be in denial about this epidemic..the talk show host piped in and said “Oh my goodness, my friends have (had) bedbugs and this is terrible, very difficult to get rid of”…with this the Mayor was put a bit on the defense, because the talk show host’s friends are obiviously people of some means…If the City of New York doesn’t address this vampire bug…they will live to regret it..we will be finding them in businesses, office bldgs. and everywhere…they have already infested Madison Ave. locales ..Serious legislation must be passed..Yes Mr. Mayor..We do need ..”A Bedbug Czar”…

2 jessinchicago October 15, 2006 at 9:24 am

Very interesting. You would think that the people in the SMALLER town would be the ones who were more apt to turn a blind eye to this situation. Scary. What scares me most is that I visited the City of Chicago Department of Health website today and searched for bedbugs. Nothing. Nothing AT ALL. Are these major cities ever going to acknowledge this epidemic? I suppose it will take the “right” person, possibly meaning Mr. Bloomberg himself, getting bedbugs…

3 walker12189 October 15, 2006 at 10:54 am

Typical for NYC. Bloomberg is afraid that it will sting the tourism buisness. Its scary that I did not know as much as I do now that I have been hit. More of a reason to get the word out as much as possible. I told EVERYONE that I have been infested. So far, I have had three nights of being bug free….so far. but, I am prepared with the understanding that this is a long, long battle with these little shits!

4 nobugsonme October 16, 2006 at 2:51 am

Hi Walker, Deb, and Jess–

Jess– did you also search for bed bugs, as well as bedbugs?

I am sure you did. One of the many annoying things about this pest is that there’s no agreed spelling for its name. This is nothing compared to real itching and monetary damage, of course, but it does make it harder to spread and obtain information online!

Walker hits the nail on the head: education is key. I am glad Deb spoke with the Mayor. He is in denial, but hopefully this will change.

5 Charles October 16, 2006 at 9:12 pm

I have a bedbug infestation, not as severe as most people but it’s just as psychologically tiring. I didn’t even know things like this should have been reported to 311. Even now, knowing this I wouldn’t have called in on my landlord because he’s been really nice to us. The topic was actually brought up when he brought in an exterminator to spray all the apartments for cockroaches and mice, though the exterminator was lacking the proper sprays for bedbugs.

He told us to call him again and tell us when to schedule the exterminator. We haven’t done so yet because people are moving out of the apartment and I’m waiting for everyone to settle so I can throw out the carpet and other unnecessary items the people are leaving behind (the people have been educated by me in the proper way of moving their items — I don’t want to catch them back from them).

Either way since the exterminator’s visit we’ve managed to reduce the bedbugs’ numbers significantly, mainly with my anal cleaning tendencies. I thought I would share some tips on what I did to combat them:
– Scotch Tape. Works wonders. Take out a little and tape to the bottom of your thumb, use your index finger to press on the back of the tape. Instead of squashing them you get them stuck on the tape. The flexibility of the tape lets you catch them without popping them (unless they are really filled with blood). It’s also much easier to catch the young ones this way since their small size makes squashing them on soft material impossible. I have about 3 dispensers laying around my bed for easy access.
– When I caught a bedbug on a piece of tape I would put the tape over my flashlight. The heat from the light would kill the bedbug so I wouldn’t have to worry about it escaping (you can tell when its dead when all its legs stand up).
– Double sided tape. Using strips about 2 feet in length (anything longer makes it harder to apply properly) make a “barrier” on your top mattress. It’s not totally effective since the tape looses its stickiness quickly so you have to change frequently.
– Use of cheap single color bed sheets and pillow cases. The single color makes spotting bedbugs easier.
– I usually devoted a half hour before going to sleep in inspecting my bed and the surrounding area. Including checking under the bed sheets and bed folds.
– I sleep in long pajamas. With the shirt tucked in, and my pants tucked into my socks. Problem with this is that it leaves my hands, neck and face open to attack. So as a result, at one point I was sleeping with rubber bands wrapped around the sleeves on my wrists, from which I started tucking my sleeves into gloves that I wore that since the bites were making my hands very itchy.
– I also spray fairly often the area where my bed meets the floor, around and underneath the mattress and also the area surrounding my bed. I used a water based spray since it doesn’t stain and the brand I use doesn’t smell as bad as something like Raid.
– I vacuumed weekly. Everywhere. Under the bed too. Every two weeks I’d change the bed sheets and pick up my bed and carpet. After vacuuming I’d spray the area and place the bed back.
– When changing sheets, I would throw all the sheets and pillow cases in the bathtub full of hot water. When carrying the sheets I roll it into a ball so they have a lesser chance of dropping off and spreading elsewhere.

As you can see, a lot of this is tedious work. I’ve managed to get a medium infection down to barely noticeable level. I haven’t seen a bedbug in 4 days. All that’s left now is for the roommates to take their stuff out and I can call in the exterminator. By the way, this is NOT MEANT FOR SEVERE INFECTIONS, call an exterminator right away if you see a lot of dark spots. And remember if you think “they wouldn’t hide there”– they probably are.

Probably the worst thing about all of this is the psychological trauma.

– I haven’t slept under a cover in a few months now for fear of them being on the cover.
– I have to check the bed each time before I sleep.
– Every little itch I feel I have to inspect. Sometimes waking up to do so.
– You pay even more attention to small itches like a hair touching your skin, stuff you normally would ignore.
– I had to learn not to tell people I have bedbugs, I like being invited to places. It’s something that you want to mention but then at the same time don’t.

I really don’t know how I’m going to go back to sleeping normally.

6 nobugsonme October 17, 2006 at 1:24 am

Welcome and thanks for sharing your tips.
So much of this is familiar–lots of people seem to independently come up with the same strategies.
You make a good point also about how much cleaning and diligence can help with lighter infestations (and how limited they are for a serious problem.)

7 jennylc October 25, 2006 at 7:55 pm

I am also a recent bed bug victim in nyc. I’m wondering if any of you have come across nyc records of bed bug occurences. I’m interested in doing some analaysis of the data set. Thanks,

8 nobugsonme October 26, 2006 at 2:37 am

I think the only records kept in NYC are by some public agency (probably the Housing and Preservation Dept.) but they ONLY record bed bugs reports made to 311 (the city info. line). You should contact them and see if you can get their data set. I think it’s a great idea.
I also know that the recent NYT article had a graphic showing reports over the last few years and where they occurred, so this work may already have been done. You might contact the author of that piece to find out who’s tracking it and if you can get ahold of it.

9 Bistec February 4, 2008 at 9:51 pm

I sleep with tape around my Arms and Hands and feet …This seems to keep them from Biting me in my humble NYC home.

10 nobugsonme February 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I hate to say it, but they can bite any part of you, even fingers, neck, soles of feet. Tape won’t deter them.
I hope you are getting effective professional help so you don’t have to live with bed bugs much longer.

11 mk September 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

My friend tried dousing herself in ylang ylang oil and it worked like magic. The effects were immediate. She healed and the bugs hated it. Short-term solution until the exterminators arrive.

12 nobugsonme September 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm


Sorry if I’m skeptical.

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