ApartmentTherapy.com still does not quite get the bed bug thing

by nobugsonme on June 14, 2007 · 7 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug epidemic, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, celebrities with bed bugs, consumers, journalists, misinformation, new york, pest control services, spread of bed bugs, usa

I love apartmenttherapy.com. I really do. But with all due respect, I think Maxwell is still misunderstanding some key points about bed bugs.

Two months ago, as you may recall, loyal Bedbugger S. wrote to Maxwell to correct some misinformation in the Apartment Therapy: The Eight Step Home Cure book, which suggested something to the effect that keeping a clean home would prevent bed bugs. (I have the book, but not handy, so I can’t quote right now.) Maxwell graciously posted a long message from S. which detailed both the causes of bed bugs (i.e. you don’t get them because your home is not clean) and the total nightmare involved in getting rid of them, especially in multi-unit buildings. We appreciated Maxwell devoting a post to S.’s letter, and we also appreciated that he linked back to us.

So imagine our surprise when the following appeared on the Apartment Therapy NY blog yesterday:

Bedbugs Take Manhattan!

This is breaking news. Within one of the homes previously toured on AT (don’t even try guessing), a bedbug has been found (see above) within the past 24 hours, after more than a week of reported bites…

Apparently the news is sobering. Nighttime bites were growing within an apartment that is chic, beautiful and CLEAN. The owner has not been traveling lately. No besotted overnights with traveling salesmen had been happening (lately). The building has no other reported sightings. This bug was found by leaving the lights out all evening and then snapping them on to catch this nocturnal creature.

Pulling the bed away from the wall helped to avoid any bites last night.

The apartment is getting bombed tomorrow.

We’ll be there.

Okay, if you snap the lights on and find a bed bug, then odds are, you have a lot of bed bugs. Why? Because bed bugs feed for 3-10 minutes. You don’t feel them doing so. So the odds of turning the light on at precisely the right time are slim.

Also, moving the bed from the wall (and keeping the lights on, for that matter) will do little to help you avoid bites. (Moving the bed from the wall is good if you have protected your bed per our FAQs).

I was struck by Maxwell’s reluctance, still, to understand that clean spaces are not immune to bed bugs. Period. Yes, chic or drab, clean or dirty, zen master or pack rat, you can get bed bugs.

That said, I am glad that Maxwell posted this entry. Very glad, because people obviously are not getting this message: bed bugs do not discriminate!

I am not sure if the AT tour home was really “bombed” or not, but if so, unless the entire structure of the building was completely evacuated of all living creatures, and then tented and treated with Vikane gas by professionals, then the “bombing” probably did not work, and may well have made the problem much worse, by spreading the bed bugs.

I am also glad Maxwell promises to “be there” for treatment, since further coverage will be a good thing. I look forward to all follow-ups.

I invite AT readers to check out our FAQs, especially those in Bed Bugs 101, especially, “Think You Have Bed Bugs? Some Do’s and Don’ts.” Perhaps we should change the title to something like, “If you ever get bed bugs, this is the information you need to know in advance.”

Because once people see a bed bug, freak out, and run for the DIY bug bombs, the horse is seriously out of the gate.

Update (6/15): On Thursday, a day later, AT gave an update on “Amanda’s” situation:

The drama unfolds. Where to begin? Let’s see, Amanda (the one with the bedbugs – not her real name) informed us today that she was both grateful and worried by all the comments on the thread yesterday.

Last night she went to bed with all the lights on, fully clothed, with a sleep mask and bug repellent applied liberally (now that’s a picture we want). She received no new bites, and now she has a question for all of you…

The original pest guy quits: Your comments were excellent and she felt that it was a good point that bombing MIGHT make the problem worse. So she asked they pest guy who was coming tonight. He was so offended that she doubted his prowess, that he quit over the phone, sight unseen. Then she had to find someone else.

Amanda takes your advice: Left empty handed, Amanda took YOUR advice and called up Stern Environmental (210-319-9620) and arranged for them to come over on Tuesday. They recommend that she wash all of her clothing and fabrics first.

Second thoughts arise as the price goes up: The pest people charge $650 for their services and now she faces the prospect of spending the entire weekend washing all of her belongings, which is going to cost at least $600 (she has a lot of clothes).

Now the folks in her office are arguing that perhaps she should WAIT and SEE if there’s really another bedbug before going through with all this and paying over $1000.

So tonight, she wants to ask all of you whether she should go to bed regularly tonight and see if any new bites appear OR sleep fully protected with lights on again and go through with washing all her belongings and treating her apartment on Tuesday???

There’s even a scary “Choose Your Own Ending” poll, where readers can vote for Amanda waiting-and-seeing while sleeping un-armored, or Amanda springing for full treatment and doing all the hot wash / hot dry stuff. You know where my vote ended up. But readers are (as of this writing) split on that.

I encourage you to go to the site and read the comments, which demonstrate not only how much misinformation still abounds, but also, how much wisdom. I was really glad AT readers convinced her not to have the place “bombed” and to get someone in who knows more about bed bugs. I look forward to following the drama as it continues to unfold.Check it out.

Another update (6/15): a third bed bug post today from ATNY:+ no progress, but Amanda now thinks her neighbors who travel a lot may be the source. They’re on vacation till next week.

She has not sprung for the exterminator, but asked her landlord about the neighbors. Ding! Ding! Ding! (That’s the sound of bells going off!) She is renting, people. She does not have to pay $650 for the PCO. Her landlord does. She still does not know this. Hopefully she will see my comments clarifying that fact which I’ve now left for two days running.

We provide the FAQs, folks, but people have to read them.

1 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 1:43 am

I just updated the post with details about the latest on the Apartment Therapy bed bug case. There’s a lot of new information, and I hope you’ll all check it out!

2 hopelessnomo June 15, 2007 at 10:26 am

The guy quitting over the phone is worth the price of admission. Thank goodness. I would have thought his not giving her any instructions, including laundry instructions, would have been enough of a tip-off that he was bogus, but, sadly, one has to first know what the protocol entails.

I am very saddened by how many New Yorkers still don’t get it.

3 BBsBlow June 15, 2007 at 3:47 pm

And if they’re referring to Stern in NJ, they goofed on the area code. It’s not 210, it’s 201.

That’s so irritating that people think you can’t get these bugs if you’re “clean.” Well, guess what? I got them anyway, and as we all know, cleanliness isn’t a factor!

4 nobugsonme June 15, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Sadly, I think Amanda’s case is finally going to convince them of that!!!

5 nobugsonme June 16, 2007 at 12:16 am

Today–another update from Amanda, added to the original post above.

6 starbrt50 July 18, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I’ve lived in my aptment for almost 3 yrs, and have had the same furniture ever since I moved in here. For the past two yrs, since my daughter passed away, I have slept on the sofa, have never had any bite marks on me, or even noticed anything that looked like a bed bug.. Recently our apt building has had a bad roach problem, and the landlord refuses to hire an exterminator, he’s been trying to deal with it on his own. To no avail, then today, I was lying on the sofa, trying to rest, my cat was on the sofa with me, then she started acting like she was chasing something on the sofa, I thought that a roach had gotten on there with us, so I jumped up, and started looking for what she was chasing.. It was some kind of little dark red bug. I caught it, and squished it with a piece of paper towel. Then I got to looking at it, and noticed it was not a roach, so I got on the computer and looked up bed bugs, because it looked a lot like a bug I had seen on tv one night about bed bugs, Sure enough that is what it was.. I immediately got the flash light and started looking more closely at the sofa. In between the pillows on the back of the sofa was a nest of them.. What I was wondering, is, if I had, had these things for any length of time, woudn’t I have noticed them before 3 yrs? And the lady that lived beneath me is the one that had gotten the roaches started here, and they ended up traveling all over the building before it was over, is it possible, that the bed bugs may have originated there in her apt also? Can they travel between apts too. I have shampoed that sofa, I vacumn the sofa regulary my carpets get vacumned everyday withhout fail,,, and like I said, I’ve slept on that sofa for over two yrs and I have a bad heart condition, so I am laying most of the day to begin with, I would think that if I had gotten the bugs by myself, I would have noticed them long before now. I haven’t spent the night no where but here, I am pretty much a stay at home person,, don’t go much of no where exce[t to the grocery and back home, and that it. And if they did get started by another tenant here, do I have to foot the bill for the pest control comp, or does my landlord have to pay for this? Thank you.

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