Bedbugs by the Numbers: Few Take Preventive Measures

The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, January 11, 2011


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 pests.



"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," Henriksen said.

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 pests.

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 survey found.