Jeffrey White, a research entomologist with Bed Bug Central in
New Jersey, says the bed bug problem is worldwide, though he has
seen a dramatic increase in the Northeast. "We use New York City as
the barometer for what's going to happen across this entire country
over the next five to ten years."
A simple review of the online resource, bedbugregistry.com,
which shows real time reports of bed bug infestations, confirms the
higher incidence of bed bugs in the upper Northeast.
White says he's seen a rise in calls for expert advice and
retention. The number of calls has increased dramatically in the
past six months. "We are averaging at least one call a week."
White notes the calls are evenly split between defense and
plaintiff attorneys. The defendants involved are mainly hotels,
group homes, apartments, and property management companies.
In White's experience most lawsuits involving bed bugs settle
prior to trial and he is only asked to review the case files and
provide an opinion. He emphasizes taking proactive measures to
identify and prevent bed bugs early on. Then, he recommends an
aggressive action plan to treat the problem.
"Where people are finding themselves in a lot of hot water is
when they stick their head in the sand about bed bugs. They don't
have any type of action plan created. They show up and don't know
how to react to the problem. Weeks go by and no action is taken, or
they call the cheapest exterminator they can find and they come in
and don't do anything even close to a good treatment for bed
Documentation is just as important, White points out.
"That is where a lot of cases have had to settle. People claim
they did everything they could have done, but the paperwork does
not reflect their claims."
Pest management records and documentation is equally important.
White hasn't seen many pest control companies named in lawsuits;
however, they can get pulled in at any moment.
While most of the lawsuits White has seen involve bodily injury
and property claims for medical bills, scarring and furniture
replacement, he has noticed a number of plaintiffs also claiming
"We've seen a lot of people that are claiming psychological
Emotional distress claims range from not being able to sleep at
night to having problems at work as a result of the lack of
During a breakout session of the Orkin-sponsored virtual bed bug
summit held in April, Michael Weisburger, president of the
PlanetPCO Insurance Group, emphasized that media attention is
playing a major role on how bed bug claims are perceived.
"In the event of a highly publicized claim situation, the public
will dictate whether or not the damages are "real". What's
overstated and sensationalized is real! Insurance companies have to
contend with all of this hysteria. Insurance companies are having a
difficult time getting their arms around how to measure what losses
exist and what potential losses exist in claims involving bed
While typical property policies don't cover damage or treatment
of bedbugs, general liability policies do come into play. When
investigating a bed bug claim and the potential for subrogation,
adjusters should check to see if the insured is a named additional
insured on the pest management company's policy.
The NPMA's Web site has a section devoted entirely to bed bugs.
The NPMA recommends visual inspection as the preferred method of
determining whether a bed bug infestation exists. The size and
color of an apple seed, bed bugs like to travel hiding in
suitcases, boxes, and shoes.
"Bed bugs can be very hard to detect until their levels of
infestation get to be large," says Henriksen.
A bed bug hatches from an egg and has five nymphal stages where
it will shed an exoskeleton. Each time the new shell will harden
and in the final stage it will become a male or female. The bed bug
enjoys a blood meal at each stage and will feed multiple times as
an adult. The lifespan of a bedbug is typically three months,
though they can live up to a year if food is limited. The female
will go through multiple reproductions, laying approximately five
eggs at a time and between 20 and 100 in her lifetime.
Henriksen recommends watching out for itchy bumps or welts. Bed
bugs tend to bite in a pattern or line. When changing sheets it's a
good idea to inspect the bed, mattress, headboard, box spring, and
dust ruffle. Pepper-like flakes can be a sign of bed bug excrement
or blood debris.