New York Magazine has a new bed bug story dated November 12th (print edition of 11/19), by Melissa Kirsch.

It contains lots of solid advice about not picking up curbside furniture, being wary of Craigslist finds, and searching for fecal spots and blood stains. But it also contains some advice we don’t normally see. Especially pertinent, this comment from our friend Lou Sorkin, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. (Hear him talk about bed bugs and other pests today–Tuesday–at 10:40 on 99.5 WBAI in NYC, or listen to the streaming live audio here.)

The telltale signs of their presence are itchy welts on your body, frequently in clusters of three or more. You might see tiny red or brown marks on your sheets where you’ve crushed bugs in the night. If you suspect infestation, check under carpets and in moldings, and survey mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. Look for feces and shed skins. And look for nymphs: “Ninety-nine percent of papers written on bedbugs neglect to mention that a bedbug starts as a tiny egg and hatches from it to become a [1- to 1.6-mm.] nymph that’s translucent white,” says Louis Sorkin, entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. “If people knew to look for nymphs, they could head off the problem much sooner.” The bugs pass through six stages of development and feed at least once during each, which means you can get bites before there are full-grown adults visible. If you think you have a problem but can’t find anything, press packing tape or a lint roller underneath carpet and in the corners of beds. Nymphs and eggs will stick to it.

Lou is bringing up a really important point here: many people first see a bed bug that is a fed or unfed nymph. And neither bed bug will look much like the image of an adult bed bug typically pictured in a media story. The first five photos in our page with photos of bed bugs and signs of bed bugs convey the enormous visual difference between fed vs. unfed first instar nymphs, and between nymphs vs. adults. Since people who have not yet had bed bugs often hear of them via the two-minute segment on Fox, or an article in their local paper, it would be best if more news outlets would feature a visual comparison giving people some awareness of this range when and if they do encounter a bed bug.

The article warns people against self-treating with Raid or foggers / bombs, and talks about the importance of dealing with clothing properly, notifying neighbors, and getting a professional in.

What I found most interesting was the final paragraph, which was centered around the need for action on the part of the city:


Last week, bedbugged tenants mounted a Craigslist-based attack on their Greenpoint building, and protesters in front of the Department of Health demanded action on asthma-exacerbating roaches and rats. They’re not the only ones who think the city could do more to crush creeping menaces. “Bedbugs are a major mental-health issue. I get tired of the Department of Health saying, ‘It’s not a physical issue, so we’re not going to focus on it,’” says Upper West Side council member Gale Brewer. She (and many exterminators) advocate a campaign along the lines of the subway-safety ads to spread word about bug-suppressing preventive steps. Other strategies: certification of bedbug-specialist exterminators and bans on mattress resales. To fight other pests, exterminators would like the DOH to enforce pre-demolition extermination laws more aggressively and hire more pest-control experts to manage parks and public spaces. For its part, the DOH says it has retrained staff after the KFC/Taco Bell rat debacle and is working on plans to combat residential bedbug and rodent problems.

I am really glad that Gale Brewer, who originally proposed the ban on reselling used mattresses in NYC, is still speaking out against bed bugs and their very real negative effects on health. I hope we will get an update on the NY City Council Bed Bug Task Force that was begun over a year ago, but is yet to take action (to our knowledge).

The recommendations here–enforcement of pre-demolition extermination laws, the mattress re-sale ban, and the certification of bed bug specialist PCOs are all good ones. We’ve been talking about the need for a public education campaign (subway ads, TV ads, and so on) since started.

Finally, Kirsch said, when describing what to do when you determine you do have bed bugs,

Don’t terrify yourself with horror stories on the Internet; check informative sites like

Informative is good: thanks, Melissa Kirsch! We’re doing our best to get information out there and help people with bed bugs stay as calm as possible, so they can fight bed bugs in an effective way.

I hope we can also have something to do with getting people involved–maybe not so calmly–in fighting for change in public policies, like the ones suggested in this article. It’s always a good time to call your city council representative, or to write to the mayor, about bed bugs. Wherever you live, whether it’s New York, Halifax, Melbourne, or Lexington, Kentucky, take a moment to tell a local politician that bed bugs had a serious impact on your life–whether it was on your family, your finances, your job, and your health.

New Yorkers:
Click here to email Mayor Bloomberg.
Click here to look up and email your city council representative.
Click here to email Gale Brewer about the Bed Bug Task Force even if you’re not in her district.

And here’s a few words from the Rolling Stones–way back in 1978–that still ring true:

Don’t you know the crime rate is going up, up, up, up, up
To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got rats on the west side,
Bed bugs uptown!

What a mess– this town’s in tatters
I’ve been shattered
My brain’s been battered, splattered all over Manhattan

Pop this mp3 on your iPod and muse on how little things have changed. And don’t forget: email your city council representative and remind them there are, once more, “bed bugs uptown.”

1 paulaw0919 November 13, 2007 at 11:45 am

I want to say how GREAT it made me feel to read this post on the blog that Nobugs put out referring to New York Magazine. It’s a very good sign for this area. I had mentioned earlier that once I get the time I’m writing the councilmen in my area and every political name and address I can get my hands on. Well, the TIME IS NOW!!
If we all care about our families, our own future we need to do this. No more talk but action. No more wait and see….. Nobugs has and continued to work so hard on this site and to spread the word, inform people and it was worked for us no? Now she has even “found the time” to give us a link on helping us reach who we need to in order to explain the severity of this problem on all levels. Thank you Nobugs.
I hope everyone here will take what is given us here on this and use it NOW. I swear it will make a difference. They don’t understand how much people are suffering and how hard it is to rid the bugs. They don’t realize the continual emotional tramma it causes soo many people. We write them, explain our story, and tell them the time is now that they do something. All it takes is an hour of our time and a stamp. It’s not like Nobugs can write the letter for us. Each of our experiences are unique and in many cases quiet horrid. They need to know so more can be done. I know if everyone is to do this AS WE SHOULD it will come to action from them MUCH faster than to wait and see…

2 lieutenantdan November 13, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Thank you Melissa Kirsch for a well written article.
Bed bugs are a major health crises and I hope to see you write more about this.
I have a question for you.
In your opinion should the New York City government be more proactive than it is?

3 wantmyskinback November 13, 2007 at 1:52 pm

This is a great story. Thanks for providing the links to the politicians. These links should be put in every single story ! Fabulous. Thanks Nobugs.

4 nobugsonme November 13, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Thanks to you as well WMSB and Anon.
I hope others in other geographical areas will feel free to post a website address in the thread below for their local politicians, wherever they may be.

5 Winston O. Buggy November 13, 2007 at 11:23 pm

Certification of any pest control category is the domain of the NY State Department
of Environmental Conservation and must stay there for better or for worse. The city has demonstrated time and time again administration after administration that they can not solve their own pest problems and that they certainly are not part of the solution put part of the problem. Ms. Brewer and other members of the city council who voted in favor of Local Law 37,(NYC’s pesticide phase out) based on antiquated, flawed and politically biased information have helped to insure a long and productive reign of bed bugs in city housing and other city owned properties. While some agencies may move forward with scientifically based IPM programs, who will protect us from the protectors who seem to in reality to view pest control issues as revenue generating vehicles.

6 nobugsonme November 14, 2007 at 2:16 am

Thanks for your comment, Winston, and your valuable perspective.

Actually, I did not get the nuance from the article that they were suggesting the city would do the certifying. I simply thought the identification of bed bug specialists from the larger PCO pool seemed like a good idea, since consumers really do have a hard time figuring out who to call. Is this something the NYSDEC could do? Or do you feel it’s a bad idea in general.

I do know a bit about Local Law 37 and it does indeed seem like the enemy to people fighting bed bugs, in terms of the treatments it ruled out. My limited understanding is that it especially had an impact on city schools.

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