Q. Where do bed bugs come from, and where are they generally found?
A. It is believed that increased global travel and ban of certain pesticides have contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs. They have been found in many U.S. cities, including New York City. They are not everywhere, but really could be anywhere. In homes, they may concentrate in beds, including mattresses, box springs and bed frames, as well as reside on curtains, edges of carpeting, cracks in wallpaper, and furniture. In addition to private homes, they have been found in hotels, offices, and public areas.
Q: Do bed bugs carry germs or diseases?
A: Bed bugs do not carry blood-borne diseases. According to Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Cornell urban entomologist, “They do carry germs, but we don’t know enough about this at this time.” Bed bug bites appear differently on different people; around 30% of people don’t react at all. Their bites can often cause large, itchy skin welts on exposed skin, and can last for several weeks.
Q. What is NYC doing to address this growing concern?
A. Recommendations that are being put into practice include: working to coordinate and improve bed bug abatement enforcement practices in housing; and ensuring that training of pest management professionals are effective and up-to-date.
From the NYC Dept of Health website:
Bed Bug Data
Bed bug data on the prevalence of bed bugs in New York City from the NYC Community Health Survey can be viewed on the Environmental Public Health and Sustainability Tracking Portal. This site also provides information on pesticides and other household pests.
Q. How can I avoid bed bugs?
A. To avoid bed bugs:
· When traveling, thoroughly inspect the bed and furniture. Keep suitcases off the floor and away from the bed, and inspect them before you leave.
· Never bring bed frames, mattresses, box springs or upholstered furniture found on the street into your home.
· Check all used or rented furniture for bed bugs.
· If you suspect you have been around bed bugs, immediately place your clothing in a dryer on the medium setting for 30 minutes, or store them in a sealed plastic bag until you can. Bed bugs can survive washing with detergent and hot water (washing machines can become sites of bed bug transfer), so washing is not enough to kill them.
· Seal cracks and crevices with caulk, even if you don’t have bed bugs. This will help prevent bed bugs and other pests from coming in.
Q. Where do I report bed bugs if I find them?
A. In NYC, call 311 to report bed bugs. You can also call 311 to issue a complaint if your landlord isn’t remediating your bed bug situation. NYC accepts reports of bed bugs in private residences, NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, hotels, single room occupancy buildings, day care centers, NYC public schools, and subways. To report bed bugs in a private house or apartment, you must be a tenant in the building. To report bed bugs in a domestic violence shelter, contact the shelter director.
Q. Where can I learn more about bed bugs?
A. You can learn more via a free, online course entitled “Bed Bug Management,” available through NYC’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development’s website. Please go to the end of the 2nd paragraph, where it mentions HPD's e-learning course on bedbugs.
The New York State Integrated Pest Management program’s (NYS IPM) website has many bed bug resources, including their “Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities” publication. The introduction is available here.
A private blog that serves as a hub of bed bug information in NYC is www.bedbugger.com.
Jody L. Gangloff-Kaufmann
Community IPM Extension Area Educator/Urban Entomologist
60 Fire Island Avenue
Babylon, NY 11702