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While the struggling Mets and Knicks make few headlines, Bed Bugs are again making headlines in New York City.
New York had reported infestations of 377 in 2004, compared to just 2 in 2002 and 16 in 2003. Whether this is because of better reporting or because of significantly more cases is anyone’s guess, but it is believed to be a bit of both. Cases are up across the whole of the US, but it is New York that shows the most disturbing trend.
And, it is not only the less affluent areas. Hordes of Bed Bugs were found in duplex apartments in Park Avenue, and those living in a Riverside Drive cooperative were forced to spend $20,000 in order to remove these insects. Entomologists have identified that the re-emergence of Bed Bugs as a major concern is attributed to increased numbers of immigrant settlers arriving from 3rd world countries as well as increased travel activities as well as the use of lesser effective insecticides.
It is also possible that new mattresses bought from department stores might have been infected by other things held in close proximity to the new mattress. As companies agree to remove old beds and sofas when customers buy new ones, it is likely that bed-bug-transferral might happen.
Once they have entered a house, Bed Bugs are able to attach themselves to clothing and this can result in transferral to neighboring apartments. Anybody who stays in any hotel has an increased chance of bringing Bed Bugs home. Even some of the US’s / New York’s most popular and notable hotels have been reported as having infestations. As well as this, Bed Bugs have also been found at private schools, in hospital maternity wards as well as in the waiting rooms of a downtown New York hospital.
So just who is the enemy?
Bed Bugs (scientifically named Cimex lectularius) do not have wings unlike many other insects. They are brownish in color and are up to a quarter inch in size. Bed Bugs are nocturnal parasites and are seldom active in day time. They are active when around human hosts but only come out at night. Because of this, most people will only discover them once their population rises to many hundreds or even into the thousands.
While human blood is their favorite meal, Bed Bugs will also feed on blood from cats, dogs, birds or other mammals. Bed Bugs have very highly developed mouthparts which they use to bite through the skin and suck blood. They normally only attack people when they are asleep.
Bed Bugs will eat for as long or as short a time as is available to them. They will eat slowly and gorge on human blood over as long as a few minutes. They expand to up to three times their normal size once they have filled with blood. But, because of the way that they consume the blood humans are normally oblivious.
Bed Bugs are not known to transmit diseases and their bite only results in small red wheals which dermatologists sometimes mistakenly identify as being scabies or hives. An adult bed bug can live for up to a year and a single female can lay as many as 500 eggs.
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Increasingly insecticides bought from local hardware stores are becoming ineffective in fighting against Bed Bugs. They are becoming increasingly more resilient and resistant to insecticides over the years. It has also been found that using cockroach bombs only scatter them to different areas.
Pest control groups across the US an also in New York now advise those with bed-bug infestations to wash and bag each piece of clothing from all infested rooms as part of any pre-extermination procedure. Any Garments or bedding which has been badly infested should always be thrown out, since these cannot be sprayed with insecticides safely. Clutter should be cleared in advance, as spaces filled with belongings will only delay inspection and the treatment process.
In addition, bed frames, cabinets and bureau drawers may need to be cleared, as various chemicals will be used in the treatment and they will need these to get into every corner.