Complaints Rise Even as Bedbug Violations Drop
Wall Street Journal
Monday, July 11, 2011
The bedbug wave that caused widespread unease in New York homes,
offices, movie theaters and retail stores may have been somewhat
more hype than bite, according to data from city agencies.
While residential complaints through the city's Department of
Housing Preservation and Development rose in the last fiscal year,
violations have decreased. There were 4,481 violations issued as a
result of 13,140 complaints in 2011, compared with 4,808 violations
and 12,768 complaints in 2010.
And though the city's nonemergency hot line, 311, did report a
record 34,044 bedbug-related calls for the fiscal year ended June
30, a 7% increase, as a proportion of overall traffic there were
slightly fewer bedbug-related calls made in fiscal year 2011 than
in 2010. Bedbug calls represent less than 1% of the total received
by the hot line, which fields all types of inquiries.
Regardless, local pest-control companies say there is a boom in
the business of bedbug-busting. They say the outbreaks last year in
popular clothing stores such as the Epic Hollister in SoHo and the
Victoria's Secret on the East Side were just the start.
They say New Yorkers shouldn't let down their guards during the
winter months, either.
"Bedbugs are 12-month bugs," said Missy Henrickson, vice
president of public affairs for National Pest Management
"It got so bad it showed up everywhere and it carried into the
winter. We were getting more calls than ever in the winter," said
Jeff Eisenberg, president of Pest Away Exterminator Inc. and author
of "The Bedbug Survival Guide."
Mr. Eisenberg predicts that the bedbug problem will be worse
than ever this year. The problem has spread beyond the city,
"The suburbs of New York have been decimated," he said.
Barry Beck, chief operating officer of Assured Environments,
said bedbugs calls to his business lagged in the early part of this
year because of a cold winter and spring. The reproductive cycle of
bedbugs is faster in warmer months.
"With the heat and humidity, things have been ramping up
quickly," said Mr. Beck, adding that 80-degree temperatures are
"heaven" for the blood-suckers.
Bites can cause a rash and potentially lead to a secondary
infection, but serious health risks are not known. A Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene spokeswoman said that "though bacteria
can be isolated from the bodies of bedbugs, there is no evidence
that these bacteria or the illnesses they could cause can be
transmitted to people from a bedbug."