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Bedbugs Infest Manhattan Office, California Theater, NY Subway: What To Do
20 Aug 2014
Bed bugs are back – well, actually of course they never left. But today the hard-to-eradicate pests really made headlines when the PIMCO office in Manhattan was evacuated and a movie theater in Lodi, California shut down due to suspected bed bug infestations.
And in the last week we’ve seen bedbug infestations reported in the New York subway and a Charlotte, North Carolina senior living complex, among other places.
These reports certainly seem to indicate the bedbug problem is getting worse. More worryingly, these stories also suggest that officials are underestimating the problem, and stalling on taking action.
For example, immediately after three New York subway cars were removed for pest treatment, reports began circulating that bedbugs were found in many more cars. An an investigation by a local news team suggested that the Lodi theater infestation had been reported weeks before management closed the theater for fumigation.
Theaters, residences and offices aren’t the only places bedbugs are turning up; previously I’ve reported about bedbugs on planes, and bedbugs in taxis.
So why are bedbugs back? Entomologists say the re-emergence of bedbug problems can be traced back to the banning of DDT in the 1970s. The highly toxic pesticide is very effective against bedbugs – but unfortunately kills fish and wildlife too. Thanks to DDT, bedbugs had been pretty much eradicated from much of the U.S. by the 1950s.
They were still a problem, however, throughout much of the world, so with globalization and widespread world travel, it wasn’t hard for them to hitchhike back.
How to Prevent Bedbug Problems
Now, what you really need to know: what can you do about them? First of all, protect yourself when in environments you know are bedbug prone, such as hotels. When I travel, I always check the mattress for signs of bedbugs as soon as I get in my room. On planes and in theaters, some people are bringing seat protectors to cover the seats.
Far worse than getting a bedbug bite or two is bringing them home with you. Because when that happens, then you’re dealing with your own infestation.
For that reason, I always keep my luggage up on a folding metal luggage rack pulled away from the wall, and have even put my suitcase in the tiled bathroom if it’s big enough.
When it comes to movie theaters, planes, subways, taxis and other situations you can’t do much about, a good first step is to shower and wash your clothes – drying them in a very hot dryer – as soon as you get home. More tips on how to protect yourself from bedbugs here.
If you do find bedbugs in your home, take a lesson from the Lodi theater and the New York subway, and act fast. Bedbugs spread quickly, so the faster you attack, the smaller the target.
Shower, wash anything that shows signs of infestation – and call a professional pest company. Some bedbugs will respond to pyrethins, the active ingredient in most on-the-shelf products, but research shows bedbug resistance to pyrethrinsincreasing across the country. Since none of this stuff is good for you, you’re just introducing a health hazard without solving the problem.
There are pesticides currently available that will work on bedbugs, but they’re the “big guns” and not something you want to mess with yourself. One such pesticide, Propoxur, is EPA approved for commercial buildings but not in private homes. The EPA turned down a 2010 request from officials in Ohio – one of the states hardest hit by bedbugs – to permit the use of Propoxur in private homes due to its potential toxicity.
Lastly, be aware that it may take several visits from a pest company before your bedbugs are gone. In a recent industry survey, only 10.7 percent of pest management companies promised to eradicate bedbugs in a single visit; most said it takes two or three passes.