The first of three bed bug seminars planned by the city of New York happened last night. NBC Channel 4 did a brief recap on the 11 o’clock news, but video is not available from wnbc.com as of this writing.
Bedbugger was not on the scene, unfortunately, but we did get some eyewitness reports.
Our source noted that there was useful information shared, but questioned whether the audience wouldn’t be better served if the presenters had a more intimate and extensive knowledge of bed bugs. (The program was scheduled to be led by Elise Shin and Henny Calle. We understand Calle has done previous presentations on lead and other building safety issues.)
This is New York, home to many bed bug experts–people I’ve found to be very helpful and approachable. Why were none of them involved in these proceedings? From what I can gather, they weren’t asked.
It sounds like there could have been more scientific data in evidence, particularly in regard to what was said about pesticides.
Apparently they also showed slides of bites and tried to advise people on identifying them–something that is not possible. Was this made clear? Perhaps someone can report on that.
Rather than lasting the scheduled two hours from 6-8pm, our source said it started at 6:40 and ended by 7:30–thus using 50 out of a scheduled 120 minutes. Perhaps if some experts with more bed bug knowledge were involved, the program would be richer. People expected to come for two hours, so why not use the time well?
A second report came via crawledon, a Bedbugger on the forums. crawledon reports:
I was extremely disappointed with the meeting last night. During the first part, the “educator” basically read information that had been handed out and added a tiny bit of commentary making it quite clear that she never lived through an infestation and also didn’t really know much about the subject. I think I remember her stating that bb’s can live for almost a year without a blood meal. Someone called out, “18 months!” Our educator quipped, “let’s be optimistic.” First she was inaccurate, then joked about it without correcting herself. The Q&A portion was even more ridiculous because she couldn’t really answer the questions. It was frustrating because I recognized many experts in the audience and frankly, they should have been running the show. At the very least, I wished they would have answered the questions.
The main focus was on being able to identify a [bed bug] and where to look for them. Then she talked about integrated pest management where she went on to read that tenants need to declutter, should use a stiff brush to scrape eggs off of mattresses, etc., and how we can caulk holes in walls and floors. The literature that had been passed out said the tenants can find these supplies in the hardware store. This made me very, very angry because quite frankly, it is not our job to go and buy supplies so that we, the tenants can seal up harborages, although we often wind up doing it so it gets done.
crawledon reports that at its close, the event became commercial: “like a convention hall:”
There were many businesses represented, PCOs, PCOs with dogs, salespeople from PCO companies, people wanting to come and ozone your home. . . they all descended upon the tenants, handing out business cards trying to sell their wares. We need these people and appreciate their presence but I wish more [landlords] had been present. They’re the ones that should buy these wares, not the tenants.
Finally, Channel 4 covered the seminar. They stated on their newscast that although it’s not recommended, one can do their own pest control, and listed some of the things our “educator” listed in the “integrated pest control” portion of her talk. If NBC came away thinking we can do this, what did the public come away with?
Finally, crawledon suggests that
The only good this seminar provided was now tenants can better identify a [bed bug]. But ultimately, this seminar and the newscast that followed it might have done more harm than good.
You can read the rest of crawledon’s comments here.
Thanks to our anonymous witness and crawledon for their reports. This is, unfortunately, kind of what I expected, knowing that local experts were not involved in the presentation.
The city needs to smarten up before their next bed bug seminar. Many of the people attending are people with bed bugs, or with neighbors who have them. Others are landlords or social workers or others whose jobs involve getting rid of bed bugs. They may (in many cases) know more about bed bugs than the presenters, and they need more than an introduction to the problem, they need help.
The city needs to do much more than offer a few 50-minute beginner’s bed bug identification classes. We should recall the words of Michael Potter, one of the foremost bed bug experts, at a Pest Control Technology event last August, a true “bed bug seminar”:
“If there is a classic example of why you don’t eliminate entire classes of pesticides,” Potter said, “bed bugs are it. We’re in a heap of trouble in terms of the products we have available to fight this pest,” citing several classes of chemistry that are no longer available (e.g., organophosphates, carbamates, etc.) and the growing threat of pyrethroid resistance. As a result, he said, “I don’t see how this problem is going to get better. I think it’s going to get chaotic. This is the most challenging pest I’ve encountered in my career. We’re in big trouble.”
If this pest has presented the biggest challenge of his career, to a leading entomologist, then perhaps the City of New York needs to consider going further than the albeit important step of showing a few New Yorkers what bed bugs look like.
Bed bug experts have told us that some of those classes of pesticides might be used, cautiously and with restrictions, to more efficiently eradicate a bed bug infestation, and city officials should be lobbying for this.
The city does need an education campaign, but it should be designed with the assistance of the best bed bug experts available to us. And it should be disseminated through television specials, newspaper ads, and bus shelter and subway ads. Not through a 50-minute program you have to RSVP for.
And any education campaign is just the beginning.
If you attended the seminar, or have feedback on the above, please comment below!