Bedbugs by the Numbers: Few Take Preventive Measures
The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
By Melanie Grayce West
Chances are you've had bedbugs or know someone who has had them
in a home or encountered them in a hotel, according to a new survey
from the National Pest Management Association.
The word is definitely out about bedbugs: 79% of survey
respondents have seen, heard or read about the pests in the last
few months. Despite the bedbugs' growing fame, effective education
remains rare. Nearly half of all respondents incorrectly believe
that bedbugs transmit disease.
As The Journal reported, residential bedbug complaints in New
York City rose nearly 7% during 2010, according to city data from
the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
There were 4,846 bedbug-related violations and 13,472 complaints,
up slightly from 4,811 and 12,594 in 2009.
Growing awareness of bedbugs, however, has not translated into
changed behaviors. The bedbug survey found that 54% of respondents
have not changed their behavior in order to avoid contracting the
"There's a small percentage of people that are doing some of the
things that they should be doing to best protect themselves and
their families," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public
affairs for the National Pest Management Association.
Some examples: Only 29% of respondents washed new clothing, and
just 27% inspected and washed clothing after returning from a trip.
One in four people checked their hotel rooms for bedbugs and only
16% said they examined second-hand furniture.
"Those are some easy things people can be doing to minimize the
likelihood of infestations coming their way. They are very easy and
only take a couple of minutes of your time. I don't think people
are being as active as they can in safe-guarding themselves,"
People may be doing little to prevent the spread of bedbugs, but
survey respondents still felt that the government isn't doing
enough to help. Nearly three out of every four people surveyed, 72%
said the federal government wasn't doing enough to control the
The adoption rate of bedbug-protection products also remains
low: only 14% of those surveyed said they had purchased any.
The demographic profile of those most likely to contract bedbugs
is "younger, a renter and from an urban environment," Henriksen
said. By age, people in the 18-34 category were 28% more likely to
have encounters with bedbugs than other groups to have bedbugs, the