How bad are bed bugs in Toronto? Nobody knows for sure.

by nobugsonme on December 22, 2007 · 2 comments

in 311, bed bugs, bed bugs in apartments, bed bugs in hotels, canada, new york, new york city, ontario, pest control, public health, toronto, Toronto Public Health, usa

We haven’t had any real data about how many people in Toronto are suffering from bed bugs since the 2003 survey of Toronto PCOs.

But this article in Friday’s Toronto Sun has some interesting statistics. On the one hand,

According to Reg Ayre, the city’s Healthy Environments manager, Toronto Public Health received 194 calls for bed bug inquiries in 2004, 147 calls in 2005 and 160 in the first nine months of 2006.

That’s just calls to the public health department, though.

The little insects are spreading their non-existent wings and once again showing up in beds, and homes, across Canada, making them a significant issue of public concern.

“We started receiving anecdotal reports that bed bugs were on the rise,” Ayre said. “Prior to 2003-04 it was a non-issue for us.”

Four years later, Ayre says they are constantly sending investigators out to bed bug calls around the city.

From surveys of pest control companies, Ayre said it’s clear all communities are seeing an increase in bed bugs this year.

Disturbingly, individual Toronto PCOs record much higher figures, with one PCO seeing as many as four times TPH’s yearly figure per month.

One company said it performs 1,200 bed bug treatments per year while another said it’s spraying 400-500 homes per month.

Readers will recall a similar discrepancy between official complaints and PCOs’ reports in New York City: six months after the HPD tallied around 4600 calls and 1190 actual bed bug cases reported to 311 in twelve months (summer 2005-summer 2006), one well-known PCO claimed to be getting 85 actual bed bug calls a day (and presumably another 15 false alarms). That’s 22,100 cases per year for one PCO alone, if numbers held steady. (And that was a year ago.)

Clearly someone needs to get data on the full number of homes–public and private rentals, owned homes, as well as institutions– treated every year. Data on bed bugs in hotels and other businesses needs to be collected too. Even if bed bugs have not been proven to transmit disease, they definitely cause stress and much loss of property and income. They hurt individuals and business owners.

I’ve long said we need actual data on bed bug cases in New York City, where the only official data on bed bug cases comes from renters’ calls to 311 (the city’s information line). How people are supposed to know to call 311 with a pest complaint, which everyone knows is something you call your landlord about, is a mystery.

However, why most people don’t call 311 in such circumstances is not a mystery: want to stay in your apartment and not piss off the landlord? Give him/her a chance to solve your pest problem before reporting the building to the housing department.

And that, my friends, means most cases are under the government’s radar, and NYC does not have any reliable data about how many people here have bed bugs. We need a bed bug study done in New York, and so does Toronto.

Read about the 2003 Toronto data here on the CDC website.

1 vacationer November 16, 2008 at 4:02 am

Students in public health looking for a research project, are you listening?

– v.

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