The Post‘s New York correspondent David Segal attacks bedbug hysteria today, pointing out the problem with reporters calling pest-control companies looking for evidence of a resurgence of the evil little critters. He makes a compelling case that the return of bedbugs has been overstated, to say the least, in the press, noting that the New York Times alone has done 12 bedbug stories in the past half-decade.
My last year in New York was 2002, a year before the media fever, but as usual I was on the cutting edge—-our apartment in Brooklyn got infested by bedbugs. It happened after a trip to Richmond, and I’ve always figured the shabby hotel we stayed in there was to blame. The first thing we noticed was bites on our legs, then small blood stains on the sheets. Then we started seeing them.
A month of hell ensued. We threw out our bedding. The bugs returned. I ordered some chemicals off the Internet that probably shaved five years off my life expectancy and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. We moved out of the living room and back into our bedroom. The next morning, when the blood spots returned, I didn’t want to believe it. But I caved and called an exterminator, who, when I asked him how much this was gonna cost me, asked me whether I’d be paying by cash. Cash is usually the right answer in New York.
He showed up with an assistant and proceeded to spray everything in our house, including our mattress and box spring, which I threw out the next day. They set off bombs, explaining that bedbugs can live between floorboards and in the corners of picture frames. We vacated the house for the 12 hours he recommended, then spent most of that night mopping up God knows what. The whole adventure cost us about $1,000, two weeks of worry, and I can only imagine what kind effect the chemicals will have on us when we’re older. But goddammit, those bugs never came back. Maybe the prevalance of these things is overreported, but the misery they cause is not.