Blood-Sucking Bed Bugs Found In Record Numbers
When 22-year-old Cindy Cabral moved into her very first apartment in Woodside, she had no idea she would be sharing the place with some disgusting houseguests.
“When I first moved in here, I really didn’t notice anything wrong,” Cabral said. “Then about a week later I started to get bites.” The culprits were everywhere, on the floor, in the walls, and worst of all, inside her furniture. Cabral’s one-bedroom flat was infested with bed bugs.
“Having had bedbugs has made me totally paranoid,” she said. After a couple of sightings and the seven or eight red, itchy bumps, Cabral researched ways to kill the reddish brown bugs online, then visited her hardware store.
At the Hardware Depot on Roosevelt Ave., Manager Jeffrey Reyes said that about 100 people per week come in to buy the strong insecticide, Perma-25. Even Hardware Depot employee Bernardo Montalban said he had an infestation of bed bugs, which left his 9-year-old son Patrick covered with bites on his arms and legs.
But since the resilient insects can live within the walls of a house or apartment without feeding on a human for 180 days, you never really know if you got rid of them if you do it yourself, said Queens-based exterminator Alex Rodriguez.
In the last two months, Rodriguez, owner of “Alexcom,” has handled 80 cases of bed bugs, a number that he said has risen significantly in the three years that he has worked as an exterminator in Jackson Heights and Woodside. “The biggest outbreak is in Queens,” he said. Rodriguez is so busy that he has had to add two employees within the past month, and expects to add more staff very soon. “We are too busy to take roach jobs,” he said.
Bed bugs are also spread easily through contact of almost any material, Rodriguez explained, brushing his shirtsleeve against his pants, “as easy as that.” Rodriguez said that the bugs are also spread when mattress companies deliver new ones and then take the old ones away in the same truck. Several of the borough’s mattress companies admitted to this practice, but no one would go on the record.
The problem has become so widespread that Manhattan City Councilwoman Gale Brewer introduced legislation to create an interactive bed bug task force and to outlaw certain practices that she said spread the pests. Up for Council review at the end of January, the bill would make mattress reconditioning illegal.
When asked by The Queens Courier about the practice of using the same trucks to carry away old, potentially infested, mattresses alongside new ones, Brewer said that she hopes to add in a resolution to her bill during Council hearings to ban the practice.
“It’s a health concern, tourism concern; it’s an agency coordination concern,” Brewer said, adding that she was met with initial apprehension from councilmembers. Now Brewer said she has support from other legislators including Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. in Astoria.
“It’s one of our top priorities,” Brewer said of the bill.
Over at Rudy’s Pest Control in Astoria, Plinia Sarchese said that bed bug treatments in the area have shifted from individual apartments to whole buildings. “In the past three years, things have been crazy,” she said, adding that the company gets about two or three bed bug calls per day.
According to Cindy Mannes, vice president of public relations for the National Pest Control Management, the spread of bed bugs is not restricted to New York but nationwide and even worldwide. “We haven’t had bed bugs in the country in this proportion since the 50s … since people came home from the war,” Mannes said.
Orkin, the pest control company, reported the insects have been spotted in 28 states in 2002 and had spread to 43 states by 2004. “Bed bugs really don’t discriminate,” said Steven Garber, Queens-branch manager of Orkin. Garber said he has seen the number of bed bug calls to his office in Ozone Park surge in the last few years. Now at about one-tenth of the 100 calls into the local Orkin office per day, reports of bed bugs are up 500 percent.
Besides the bites, a bed bug problem can be identified by blood stains from crushed bugs or by dark spots on beds and walls. When an infestation is particularly large, there is an offensive, sweet smell. They even leave feces along the seams of mattress ticking.
The bugs, which can grow up to a quarter of an inch in length, are much harder to kill before they feast on blood. Once a bed bug bites, it loses its clear color and becomes red and carcinogenic, making it easier to see and exterminate.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC-DOHMH) advises all those who find bed bugs to contact a professional. The cost of an exterminator can be pricey – upwards of $1000. Rodriguez said “Alexcom” charges $125 for the first visit to an apartment, $100 for every subsequent one.
The good news is that the blood-suckers do not pose a public health threat as they are not disease carriers, according to the (NYC-DOHMH), but cases are evaluated on an individual basis.
Cabral has continued to spray about every six weeks. Along with frequent hot water washes for her sheets and regular vacuuming, she said she had pretty much rid herself of the problem but not her recurrent nightmares.
One in three households in New York City uses pesticides that may be hazardous to their health, according to a new report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Although “Bonide Permakil 25” is currently not a restricted-use product, it may be used by residents but is not recommended by the DOMHH for exterminating bed bugs. For a copy of this report, information on illegal pesticides, or to report their sale, call 3-1-1 or log on to https://nyc.gov/health.