Brian Lehrer on bed bugs in New York City

by nobugsonme on March 16, 2009 · 4 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs

On WNYC on Friday, Brian Lehrer talked to Jennifer 8 Lee (of the New York Times) about bed bugs, and asked callers to share their bed bug fighting tips.

There’s a mention of New York vs. Bed Bugs‘ FOIA request on HPD bed bug complaints. (Woo hoo!)

As you’d expect, it’s a bit dangerous asking callers for bed bug fighting tips.

Caller Lulu refused “fumigation” (though she described traditional spraying) of her unit when her entire building was treated. She recommended diatomaceous earth (DE), though gave incorrect information (“bed bugs eat it”).

I fully understand the desire to avoid pesticides where possible, but I also would not want to be the only person in a building not getting simultaneous bed bug treatment (or one of her neighbors)!

Christina believes she got bed bugs from her neighbors; she used DE and caulking. (Lehrer makes the helpful point that caulking does not prevent one from bringing bed bugs in to the home.)

Jennifer 8 Lee reminds listeners that NYC is moving towards a more coordinated approach, per Cincinnati’s and Toronto’s approaches.

Another caller called to warn Lulu that DE could be very dangerous if inhaled. (Rightly so!)

You can listen to this and the rest of the segment in full below:

1 sam bryks March 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

So easy to miscommunicate….

There is a lot of misinformation out there.
With respect to treatment,,,,,, there are a number of things that kill bed bugs, but it takes meticulous care and detail fo treatment for it to work.
If someone objects to having their home “sprayed” it doesn’t mean that they cannot achieve good control with a combination of methods including steam treatment, vacuuming, sealing of baseboards and other hiding places, and yes, Diatomaceous Earth as well. The difficulty with diatomaceous earth is more about application .. it is slow acting,b but it is reported it does work in time.
Being methodical is what really counts.
tidy the home .. reduce clutter, launder and/or heat dry all clothing, vacuum thoroughly and not “every day” as some wild enthusiastic suggested.. If you can get a steam cleaner with a reasonable reservoir (not the hand held units), then vacuum and treat the entire bedframe very carefully, treat inside drawers, under dressers, behind pictures,under sofas and upholstered chairs.. it takes time. and put matt and box into encasements.
early treatment means better control…
all of the above are useful and valuable..
spray products work too but they are not necessarily a MUST….
it is the quality of preparation and meticulousness of treatment that counts..
that more than anything else…

2 nobugsonme March 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Hi Sam,

Meticulousness is certainly the most important factor.

I agree sprays are not absolutely a MUST, but when it is necessary to treat an entire building (as the caller said was happening), it seems that every unit should be given aggressive concurrent treatment. If the PCO could not use the same methods in every unit, I would like to see them substitute something for the faster-acting sprays (for example, careful applications of dry vapor steam).

We also hear from MANY people who misuse DE (overapplying it). And many do not understand that it only works if the bed bugs cross it. Simply throwing down some DE is not a substitute, in my mind, for a good, thorough treatment (IPM and steaming, spraying, or otherwise).

3 sam bryks March 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

i agree… over-application is a common problem. I had mentioned in an interview on NewYork versus Bedbugs about a case of an individual spraying an apartment more than once a week with diazinon due to fear of having any roaches. I have seen apartments with boric acid or DE dust EVERYWHERE starting at the doorsill into the home.
I guess it comes down to the classic caution “READ THE LABEL” BEFORE using..
Having said all of that, I was until recently skeptical about the effectiveness of DE however, I heard Michael Potter speak of the fact that DE does work well, albeit slowly compared to direct contact insecticides. Steam treatment by contractors is quite expensive as it is a slow process, but I do recommend that homeowners take advantage of this as it is non chemical and used in specific applications such as at baseboards it does work well.
My main point in my response is if a tenant is concerned about spray products, there are alternatives and the tenant can do a lot of it themselves. But I agree with you, that over application is not good.. Fortunately, DE has a very low toxicity, but a dust mask is a good idea and careful application INTO cracks and crevices, but not as a DUST EVERYWHERE approach that is totally inappropriate..
The other benefit of DE i imagine is that if used properly it likely does not provoke the kind of allergic response that can happen from spray products for some sensitive individuals.

4 nobugsonme March 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I agree with everything you’ve said there, sam. I am a big fan of steam (followed by pesticides and DE where appropriate) and thermal.

The problem we see in the forums is that people think they’re following label instructions when they’re not. Even if the label says to dust in crevices, some people think, “Hey! My floor has lots of crevices,” and they get out the broom and go to work.

I completely understand the overapplication too, which is part of a syndrome among people who’ve just discovered bed bugs — the product is being applied by panicked people who may just have discovered a blood-sucking insect on their person, or in a child’s bed. There’s a real desperation factor. People stop sleeping and stay up all night doing all the wrong things.

And since DE takes time, I think there’s even more of an inclination to overapply and stick it everywhere.

Also, are inhalation dangers posted on food grade DE? I think not, but have to confirm. We’ve been told by others that a respirator mask is better for applying DE than a dust mask.

Also, this is a minor issue for most, but people have had skin problems from continued contact with DE (again, overapplied or not carefully applied). It dries you out. Which can lead to irritation and itching.

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