The first “bed bug seminar” hit New York City last night

by nobugsonme on January 29, 2008 · 13 comments

in bed bug education, bed bugs, how to detect bed bugs, how to get rid of bed bugs, hpd, new york, new york city

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 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!

1 lieutenantdan January 29, 2008 at 5:55 pm

I will be attending the one in Queens next week and I have been already preparing myself for being dissapointed. I will give a report on it.

2 Bugologist January 29, 2008 at 11:37 pm

I think crawledon and Loubugs (who’s post in the forum hasn’t made it here yet) summed it up and I don’t have much else to add.

If you went there knowing the basics of bed bugs and were more looking for additional information and answers to the epidemic in New York, you most likely left aggravated. It should have been called “Bed Bug Basics” because that’s what it was. I know most of us here know that information so I have a feeling most of the posts that come from this website will most likely be negative. I think we need to take a step back and put ourselves in someones shoes who has not completed the online research most have done on here. For some, I’m sure the presentation was highly informative.

(Disclaimer: As a professional and someone who presents a lot of information and gives formal talks, the coming paragraph is a soapbox for me so I’m going to come across harsh but it really bothers me when something like this happens.)

The biggest problem I had was the presenter. I don’t know Elise Shin’s qualifications and as people were leaving I heard one woman voice her opinion and stated “who is she and why is she giving this presentation”. I know many would have rathered an expert or other qualified professional give the presentation and unfortunately, politics just don’t work that way. But most importantly, she did a completely, utterly, horribly terrible job presenting the information. She presented it like it was the first time she’s seen the presentation. She stumbled over every slide and was completely lost. Before she started she claimed she wasn’t used to being tied to a podium because she’s usually walks while she teaches classes. If she taught my class the way she presented this presentation, I’d drop out and want my money back. I’m assuming she isn’t a bed bug expert since she basically said she hadn’t seen one before doing the research to present this information. If that’s the case at least come across prepared and professional because as a king of B.S., if you come across as an expert you can get away with not being the expert you’re trying to portray. I understand that the HPD probably doesn’t have a bed bug expert on staff. I understand that money in state and federal agencies are tight to hiring someone to do this may not have been possible. I understand that the dissemination of information is our biggest tool against bed bugs. I completely support talks like this and the information that was given out. This being said, from a professionalism perspective (if that’s even a thing), this was a circus.

Wow I feel better. Sorry for those that aren’t into negative reviews. To be honest, I didn’t have a huge problem with the presentation itself, just the delivery.

3 hopelessnomo January 30, 2008 at 12:34 am

But might not the city’s Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Health have staff entomologists?

The information for the seminars themselves is was completely buried on a page for “small property owners classes”. Under Homebuyers!

It’s now disappeared even from that small piece of real estate on the city’s website.

What is the best way to encourage them to do more? Should we just point to everything that other cities have already done?

There’s just no money for this, is there? No money and no will.

4 nobugsonme January 30, 2008 at 12:51 am

If any city in the US should have a pest specialist, it would be NYC. I believe they call in experts to advise on and deal with the rat problem.

There’s no money, hopelessnomo, because it is not considered a serious problem. Though I think its taken more seriously than a year ago, it is still not considered a big deal.

Perhaps if the local officials could see the connection between infested hotels and businesses, and infested homes–if they understood that as long as peoples’ homes are infested, our businesses will be too (and vice versa)–perhaps they will realize the economic impact of bed bugs on local business and tourism in particular.

Or they could read the Business Week article.

I know I am preaching to the converted.
I think you’re right that we should point the city to what other cities are doing.
But I also think they’re being ostriches with their heads in the sand.

5 hopelessnomo January 30, 2008 at 1:35 am

It’s also a question of who gets behind an effort.

Remember when we talked about the Cincinnati closed-door meeting and the coroner?

In other areas as well. Consider what Stephen Doggett and his team have accomplished.

Someone has to lead.

6 nobugsonme January 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Lou Sorkin (loubugs) asked me to move his response here from the forums:

Lou says:

I attended the seminar last night.

About 2 weeks (Nov 16th) ago the seminar was announced and that morning I was in my office when our communications department called and said that Ch. 2 wanted to do an interview about bed bugs in reference to the upcoming seminars. I hadn’t heard anything about any seminars until that minute. All of you may have seen the Ch.2 news report: there was more to it, but it’s always watered down, but at least the importance of nymphs was reported. I drove to the Eastern branch meetings of NPMA after the interview.

That Friday I spoke with HPD and offered to help out but was told that I couldn’t present anything because I’m not in HPD. Anyway, we met last Friday and I spoke to them about bed bugs, showed a powerpoint presentation, short movies, and emphasized what is usually left out of bed bug presentations: the importance of the 5 nymphal instars, the first of these being so small and normally overlooked. At least nymphs made it into the presentations.

The presentation probably had already been prepared, but I was never given a preview. I think it’s one that’s been used before at other smaller meetings. they’re used to smaller meetings that normally take place in a classroom. Yes, Elise spoke and Calle translated simultaneously into Spanish. They are both instructors at HPD. Anyway, it’s a start by educating people. And Crawledon basically summed it up in previous posts on the seminar.

The reporter from Ch.4, btw, wasn’t interested in facts, either, although I did speak with her after it was all over while she was finishing up an interview with a woman. (I didn’t introduce myself). I don’t think she attended the presentation, only spoke to people and waiting outside. She had some adults taped onto paper or pictures of them on paper and wondered if I had an apple seed because you know that’s about how big bed bugs are and she needed it for comparison…. Some vendors took their opportunity to give out info after the meeting, but I expected that.

I might get to Queens next week.

7 nobugsonme January 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Crawledon tells us a flyer was circulated at the event on Monday, advertising another seminar:

Thursday, Feb. 28
2511 Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
Corner of 134th St.
RSVP 212 863-8830

Let’s hope the material evolves before then. The next one is Tuesday the 5th in Astoria.

8 crawledon January 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Just got off the phone with someone from HPD who was also present at the seminar. Our 30 minute conversation will prompt perhaps one change. Hopefully, the speaker will now say that bed bugs can live for up to 18 months, not one year. As for having experts talk, apparantly they need to go through some interview process. I suggested that some experts would be willing to do that, but really, it seems that HPD isn’t interested in this idea. She felt the speaker was good, did her research and effectively conveyed an introductory seminar. When I told her that one question in particular was very badly answered at the end, she asked me why I didn’t speak up. Frankly, I tried, but it had become an out of control situation, people were all talking and it was getting emotional. So, it seems, that anyone can and should speak up, even if you need to stand and be loud. Let’s make them hear us!

9 hopelessnomo January 31, 2008 at 2:10 am

Q for those who attended-

Do you know if they unambiguously advised tenants to notify their landlords of an infestation? Or did they tell them to clean first? And did they address the issue of who is responsible at all?

Having people delay in any way before notifying the landlord is bad. That’s when people go to the hardware store and buy bombs to try first.

10 nobugsonme January 31, 2008 at 2:23 am

Yes, hopelessnomo–these are great questions. I hope those who were present on Monday can answer them for us.

My concern with decluttering and cleaning before getting the place inspected by a professional is that people “clean away” signs of bed bugs.

11 mangycur January 31, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Hey Everybody,

I just called to reserve a spot for the March 12 seminar, and the woman I spoke with said the information is going to be the same in every one of these seminars. I just wanted to mention that to those of us who were considering attending more than one. In the meantime, who should we call to encourage the presenters to do better? Should we start a petition?

12 crawledon February 1, 2008 at 3:06 am

Sadly, my exhausted self doesn’t remember those details anymore. They did say to call 311 if the landlord wasn’t exterminating, but during the “IPM” (Integrated Pest Management) portion of the seminar they talked about what the tenant should do. They did not at all say to go and buy bombs. They also handed out a folder with the information that was mostly read to us. Sadly, I left my chair for a few moments and when I got back, the folder was gone. Hopefully it will help someone. If I had the info they handed out, I could answer your question.

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