New York Again Tops Bedbug Charts

Wall Street Journal Metropolis Blog
Thursday, May 26, 2011

It probably isn't much of a surprise, but bedbugs are taking a bigger bite out of the Big Apple so far this year, according to one exterminator company.

For the second consecutive year, Terminix ranked the city first in the nation for bedbug infestations, edging out Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia.  (In better news for New Yorkers, a rival ranking by competitor Orkin ranked the city only the seventh worst for bedbug cases.)

Terminix's city rankings are based on the number of customer complaints and infestations discovered by employees of the company's 350 U.S. branches. The company wouldn't release specific data on just how many bedbug complaints it gets, but it said the problem is multiplying.

Bob Young, an entomologist and Northeast and Midwest division manager for Terminix, estimated that he has logged two to three times more bedbug calls over last year, following high-profile cases in which bedbug invasions forced several Manhattan businesses to close temporarily.

Is any borough of New York more infested than the others?

"Manhattan," said Young, who is based in New York. He the added: "Clearly, Brooklyn and Queens. The Bronx. Even in the rural areas. They're all over the place. These things, they hitchhike."

Business for bedbug exterminators boomed last year. Bedbugs start at $500 a room, and off-site fumigation of personal belongings can add another $1,000, Young told WSJ columnist Anne Kadet last year. High-end residential jobs involving art and antiques can cost as much as $20,000.

This summer projections for bedbug activity probably won't help New Yorkers feel more at ease. "It's a larger and larger problem each day," Young said. "College students seem to bring them home with them."

Young, who has been with Terminix for 15 years, said he started seeing the critters hit New York in the early 2000s. Since then, complaints have risen ten- to fifteenfold, he said, as the public becomes more aware of their presence.

Last year, bedbugs shut down the flagship Niketown store on East 57th Street, the Hollister Epic store in SoHo and a Victoria's Secret on the Upper East Side, among other locations. And the insects made a debut at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

This year? "They're even in police-department squad cars," Young said.