Law & Order to feature bed bugs tonight! (updated)

by nobugsonme on April 28, 2009 · 4 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in the media, new york

Bed bug blogger Unlucky in Bugs tells us that Law & Order: Criminal Intent will feature bed bugs tonight (April 26, 2009).

Interestingly, UiB tells us,

The entomologist is played by the husband of a good friend of my sister’s, who is one of the first people I heard of to get bed bugs way back in 2005… so there’s some nice bed bug karma for you. It’s his television debut!

Sounds good!  We always like to hear about bed bugs on television.

Friend to Bedbugger Dr. Lou Sorkin is a forensic entomologist who has been consulted about New York City crime scenes.

Because bed bugs contain the blood of their recent hosts, they could potentially produce evidence relevant to a crime.

This episode of Law & Order could be a very interesting show!

Update (4/28): Did anyone else catch this? I was excited to see bed bugs on television, but the bedbugged aspects of the plot left me with some questions. I preface this by saying, I am not an entomologist.

The episode is called “Rock Star.” It’s about the death of two hipster musicians in an East Williamsburg loft (an open-plan one, with nooks rather than apartments, no one seems to have four walls and a closed door).

The detective played by Jeff Goldblum places his portfolio on a bed his partner earlier identified as having bed bugs — she saw one crawling around. (The loft owner’s response “I have a fumigation certificate right here!” Fumigation certificate?!? Huh?)

Later, Goldblum’s character casually bends over to collect about 5-6 bed bugs off the floor (they look like pre-adult stages) which are ostensibly just hanging out near his feet in broad daylight. And he does so without the occupant he’s chatting with noticing that he’s collecting them — and produces them later dead in a tissue.

That was easy!

From these squished samples, a forensic entomologist (who rightly declares NYC to be in the middle of a bed bug epidemic) extracts blood that’s up to two months old, and suggests that the current occupant and past occupant had the same female lover.

The problem with all this, is we’re talking about the floor of a converted sausage factory with something like 27 young tenants all sharing the larger space, with doorless rooms rather than separate units (Goldblum’s character uses the phrase “rabbit warren”).

How could you be sure that blood from two months ago, extracted from a bed bug, represented someone bitten in the same room in a high-turnover open-plan loft, where the occupants come and go and hang out on the same sofas?

And then, how would you determine they were having a relationship, as the detectives do? You can’t of course. (To be fair, it isn’t a lynchpin for the plot.) Sue could have simply been bitten when she came to give Teeter back his copy of On the Road. (Yes, I am embellishing; no actual books were spotted in the loft.)

Moreover, those did look like some awfully young bed bugs… if they were living in a loft full of hipsters, feeding regularly for two months, would they not have reached adulthood?

I hope some of our entomologist friends will weigh in on the science behind “Rock Star.”

If you missed this show on USA, you can TIVO it when it repeats at 9 am Sunday (EST). Or look for it in the schedule of repeats on the Criminal Intent site.

Update #2 (4/28/2009):

I suspected this artists’ loft was modeled on the McKibben Lofts, and it appears Curbed blogger Lockhart thought so too.

McKibben Lofts have allegedly been no stranger to the bed bug.

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1 nobugsonme April 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Re-posted with recap of episode.

2 Aimee April 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Ah Nobugs,, you might not be an entomologist but you sure do know a lot about bed bugs…more than the writers of that show apparently do. Your points seem very valid to me! I didn’t see the episode, but did they use real live bed bugs? Ugh! What if some escaped?

3 nobugsonme April 29, 2009 at 1:45 am

Hi Aimee,

Thanks for your comment.

No live bed bugs were shown during the show. In one shot, the female detective (at a distance) points at a bed, noting a bed bug. We don’t see what she’s looking at.

When Goldblum’s character collects his bed bug samples, he apparently squishes them all (we only see them later, dead).

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