Yesterday, there was a Bed Bug Control Seminar, sponsored by Pest Control Technology magazine, and held in the Park Central Hotel, Manhattan.
Journalist Sarah Ferguson dropped me an email to let me know that her Village Voice article on the seminar was up, here.
As expected, the bed bug news is not good:
“We have to be in an absolute bed bug state of mind,” warned Dr.
Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky and leading expert in the now global bed bug war, with no apologies to Billy Joel. “This problem is not going to go away. I don’t see how the problem is going to get better. It’s going to get chaotic.”
Potter came equipped with a PowerPoint presentation and tales of bed bugs “oozing their way” through hospitals, nursing homes, movie theaters, drycleaners, Laundromats, schools, and all manner of dwelling spaces.
“Probably every major university in the U.S. has bed bugs in its dormitories,” he said. He flashed a particularly disheartening slide of an infested mattress in the “heart transplant wing of a major urban hospital.”
There were also entomologists and PCOs talking about pesticide-resistance, and rental property owners trying to cover their backsides:
One property owner wanted to know whether tenants could be sued for bringing the evil critters into a building—a notion that, given the rates of infestation in parts of NYC—struck us a little like suing for getting the flu.
The ‘flu analogy is an apt one we’ve often made ourselves.
“You’d have to be pretty confident that tenant was the cause,” responded Denise McCurry, an attorney for MGM Mirage resorts and casinos in Las Vegas, who was flown in to address the mounting liability issues faced by property owners and their exterminators. “And remember,” McCurry added, “the tenant is not likely to have a lot of money.”
As we keep saying, the blame game just does not work with bed bugs. (Click here for previous articles discussing the limits of the bed bug blame game.) Everyone is not allergic to the bites, and those who are allergic to bites generally notice bed bugs first, regardless of whose infestation actually started first. Those not allergic to bed bugs are the last they know they have them, and so very likely to spread them, as appears to have happened in Amanda’s case, covered on apartmenttherapy.com. But even in that case, as far as AT readers know, at least, there is no proof the bed bug infestation started with the “cute neighbor.” Who knows how many others in the building are infested. We’ve even heard of bed bugs being transmitted from one building to another via a shared wall.
Sarah welcomes you, and I encourage you, to leave a comment on the article.
This was mine:
I sorely wish that the NYC government would heed Dr. Michael Potter’s warnings about how bad bed bugs are and how much worse they’re going to get.
Most people in NYC with bed bugs, once they realize or suspect the problem, call their landlord, or a pest control operator.
Unfortunately, the city of NYC bases its statistics of how many new yorkers have bed bugs on how many people call 311, the city’s question and complaint hotline, to report bed bugs.
Since no homeowners, and few renters actually call 311 to report an infestation, the city’s statistics are very skewed.
When NYC undertakes a real study of how many homes pest control operators treat for bed bugs, as Toronto did in 2003, they will be very surprised to find out how widespread the problem is.
Unfortunately, Bloomberg prefers to pretend they are a minor problem, like cockroaches. When they finally spread to almost every building and almost every workplace, it will be too late to enact changes to halt their spread. Not only do we need a public education campaign, and a required-by-law service for picking up bed bug-infested refuse (as per the article), we need systems for tracking bed bug infestations, and better systems for dealing with renter’s complaints. Most people won’t call 311, I am told everyday, because they don’t want a bad reference from their landlord.
Until reporting bed bugs to the city is divorced from reporting a housing violation, we are not going to know how many people are infested.
I’d love to hear from anyone who was at the Bed BUg Control Seminar–what did you find interesting or new, that we should know about?