NYC’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Bed Bugs

bedbugsBedbugs are a hot-button issue this summer as more and more public transportation systems and hotels are reporting incidences. Now the tiny insects are invading one of the world’s most densely populated city: New York.

The findings have prompted the quick fumigation of multiple train lines — the 5 and N lines — but city transit officials are stating that the isolated reports are still “not a big problem.”

Bed bugs can lay anywhere from one to five eggs in a day and more than 500 in a lifetime. These tiny critters can live several months without having a meal (they rely on blood). Many New York City residents who use the public subway systems are worried for their safety. One in five Americans has had either an infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered these blood suckers in a hotel or other public space.

The bugs have been found in NYC conductor cars, leading to the suspension of service of at least four trains. They were also sighted in passenger cars on the Lexington Avenue line. Although officials tell commuters that this is not an issue, a further investigative report states that there have been bugs spotted on the 7 train as well.

Kedem Deletis, a commuter on the 7 line, said he “noticed [the bugs] coming out from under the seat to feed on people’s legs”on Monday morning.

On the 4 train, Hector Berrios told reporters that he thought he saw a bedbug crawling along the floor of the train he was on before smashing it and taking a photo as evidence.

“I killed it with an old MetroCard receipt,” Berrios said. “I turned it over and was like ‘Whoa! It’s a bed bug alright.’ There was blood all over.”

Bed bugs have the capability of traveling over 100 feet in a single night, but tend to only live within 8 feet of where people sleep or, in this case, sit.

NYC’s Pest Control expert Billy Swan ensured that a bed bug infestation on the subway is highly unlikely because bugs don’t travel unless moving from one host to another. But with so many people on the trains at one time, it would be easy for the bugs to hitch a free ride.

The train cars needed to be fumigated, although sometimes this process is not very effective. Modern bed bug populations are highly resistant to the insecticides people use to kill them. They can often withstand a wide range of temperatures as well, from nearly freezing to 122 degrees — which means weather is a major factor to how likely one is to find a bed bug on the trains.

Researchers at Pennsylvania University found that bed bug populations peaked in August and were at their lowest in February, suggesting that warm weather prompts breeding. However, a successful professional bed bug treatment is heat remediation, a non-toxic and effective way to eliminate the pests.

For now, the NYC subway system has not used other methods other than chemical sprays. If the incidences continue to rise in number, city transit officials may need to come up with a different solution.

Bed bugs are small, semi-round insects that neither fly nor jump. They are brown-ish red in color and no larger than a pencil eraser as adults.

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