Bedbug Complaints Decline In NYC: How The Big Apple Is Beating Bloodsuckers Back

on June 18 2013 5:09 PM
Bedbug
Shallower traps may be easier for bedbugs to escape from, scientists say. Wikimedia Commons/Jiri Humpolicek

Bedbugs are not biting quite as often in New York City as they used to.

New Yorkers phoned in just 9,233 complaints about bedbugs in private residences between last July and April 30, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, obtained by AM New York. That’s nearly a 4,000-complaint drop from the 2011 fiscal year, which ran from June 2011 to July 2012. That year was the highest in recent memory -- by comparison, in 2004, there were just 537 bedbug complaints phoned into HPD, according to WNYC.

“I still get bedbug calls, but I don’t get 10 a day like I used to,” New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side and parts of Clinton (more commonly known as Hell’s Kitchen), told AM New York.

Even when complaints rose to a dramatic high in 2011, the trend seemed to be leveling off after years of explosive growth. Admittedly, HPD numbers do not include bedbugs spotted in retail stores or commercial spaces, private homes, offices, hospitals or government buildings.

What are some of the reasons behind the (apparent) retreat? Well, since 2011, the city has put several measures in place designed to deal with the bedbug problem -- or, more accurately, to force landlords to deal with it when it arises. Wherever bedbugs are spotted, building owners have to treat that unit, as well as the units adjacent, above and below it. Landlords also have to notify tenants when bedbugs are found in multiple units within a building. Without proper documentation of bedbug-eradication measures from exterminators, owners may end up having a lien placed on their property by the city.

New Yorkers have also likely become more savvy. Awareness of the bedbug problem – or past experience – means people could be more inclined to invest in protective covers, or think twice about pouncing on a used mattress left on the curb.

Still, there are some in the Big Apple that may have to deal with the wily, infuriatingly resilient pests in the future. Research shows that you’re better off avoiding bug bombs, which just send bed bugs scurrying to hide in wall cracks. Scientists have found that one Eastern European folk remedy is actually surprisingly effective: kidney beans, when placed in a bedbug’s path, trap them fast. The spiky hairs on the kidney bean leaf are like strands of razor wire placed at just the right height to stab the blood suckers between the plates of their exoskeletal armor and impale their clawed feet.

In May, Stony Brook University researchers unveiled their own bedbug trap that resembles a spiderweb. The technology, made from tiny microfibers 50 times thinner than human hair, wraps around a bedbug’s legs and holds it tight.

"Our nanotechnology produces entanglements that are millions of times more dense than woven products such as fabrics or carpets," Stony Brook scientist Miriam Rafailovich said in a statement back in May. "The microfibers trap them by attaching to microstructures on their legs taking away their ability to move, which stops them from feeding and reproducing."

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