In an article in Newsday last week, Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) was cited as saying bed bugs were migrating to Nassau County, Long Island from eastern Queens.

On Long Island, infestations are increasing in Nassau County, officials said. The exact number of complaints logged by the county’s Health Department was unavailable. Bedbug calls are listed in a category called “commensal pests” and aren’t separated or tracked, an agency spokesman said.

Legis. Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) believes the reddish, six-legged bloodsuckers are migrating from eastern Queens into Nassau, although experts have said the problem already existed on Long Island.

In the city, many complaints come from Brooklyn. However, it’s a citywide problem, said Seth Donlin, spokesman for the housing, preservation and development department. “It’s not only one part of the city that’s really seeing an increase,” he said.

(Emphasis mine.)

Bed bugs are a citywide problem.  They’re also a state-wide, region-wide and country-wide problem.

We have heard the claim made before that Queens may have been one of the places bed bugs first took root in New York City.  Entomologist Gil Bloom told the Queens Tribune in December 2006 that

“We started to notice [bed bugs] in 1999 or so. I will say that Queens is one the early epicenters. Astoria is probably one of the early epicenters in this area,” he said.

(Emphasis mine.)

Saying Astoria was one of the epicenters is not the same as saying Queens was “ground zero” for bed bugs (as the same article’s title alleged).

Saying Long Island is getting bed bugs from eastern Queens seems like a stretch: as the article notes, people in Long Island have had bed bugs for a long time.  Bed bugs are not being tracked there, so no records really exist.

I am wondering if there is some study out there that Mejia is privy to — one that tracks bed bugs as they hitchhike (march?) from Jackson Heights or Jamaica, Queens to Nassau County.

I am visualizing little bed bug ankle tags, and entomologists hunched over microscopes, reading little tiny numbers off their ankles.

(Oh, I just know I am going to get commenters telling me bed bugs do not have ankles.)

Bed bugs aren’t squirrels or monarch butterflies (sadly).  Sure, they can walk, but they don’t have to migrate by their own steam, walking or flying from county to county.

They can easily hitchhike, catching a ride on people and their possessions: from Manhattan to Old Westbury, from Orlando to Hicksville, from London to Garden City.

And in the other direction.

They can travel with you on purses and in backpacks and suitcases, even in a pocket or trouser cuff, from fine restaurants, movie theaters, ivy league colleges, hotels, resorts, and clothing stores, that clean-looking commuter train you rode home on this morning.

The key word there is you. They can hitch a ride with you, oh people who travel to and from Long Island.

They probably came to Nassau County like they came to eastern Queens, Chicago, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island; like they came to Maya Rudolph’s former loft, to Ralph Lauren’s design studio, to the most prestigious law firms in New York City, Stanford University, the finest hotels in London, the trains of Thailand and France.

They came with people.

I fear that the Nassau County Legislator is associating bed bugs with the big, dirty city.  Make no mistake: bed bugs can and will come home with you from anywhere.

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1 long island girl March 19, 2009 at 10:12 am

bed bugs are also a problem nowadays. aside from the effects that it brings to our skin, it also affects the comfort our sleep. the best solution is to always keep your surroundings clean.

2 JLG127 March 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm

The first case of bed bugs I ever saw (as an extension agent at Nassau County Cooperative Extension) was from a million dollar home on the North Shore of Nassau County. This was back in 2000. The bugs may have come from a summer camp in the mid west. It’s preposterous to think that bed bugs are “spreading” from New York City. Are they riding the train?

3 nobugsonme March 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Thank you, JLG127.

That said, do you think a researcher could get a grant to tag little bed bug ankles with little identification tags, as they do with falcons and bald eagles?

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