From Times Online:
The cockroach has scuttled in retreat. Bedbugs have become New York, indeed America’s, latest bug noire. These tiny, yellowish creatures (which grow to 4-5mm long), fiendishly difficult to eradicate and understand, have become an obsession for landlords, renters, pest-control experts and scientists. Why do they feed so hungrily on human blood? Why have they proliferated? Why are they so hardy? How can you eradicate them?
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” now has a particularly hollow ring to it: we are almost powerless to stop them. There has been a 71 per cent increase in bedbug infestations since 2001, according to the US National Pest Management Association. In 2004, there were a reported 537 complaints and 82 “violations” (verified infestations) for bedbugs in New York; in 2009, there were 10,985 complaints and 4,084 verified infestations. “That’s just the reported cases,” says Jeremy Ecker, of Bed Bug Inspectors, a firm that uses two specially trained dogs to sniff out the bugs in apartments before advising occupants and pest exterminators on the best action. “The problem is everywhere, it’s growing and it’s mostly invisible because of people’s embarrassment. People are too ashamed to say anything. If they admit to having bedbugs they’re frightened of losing their apartment, of being asked not to go into work, of getting rid of their possessions. We see people in extreme distress.”
A female bedbug (official name Cimex lectularius) can reproduce 400 offspring ...to eradicate bedbugs requires ruthless planning, “even before the exterminators come in”, May says.
It seems laughable that the hokey-sounding bedbug could cause such havoc — and indeed, a spokeswoman for New York City’s Health Department says: “Anyone who has had an infestation knows that it can stressful and unpleasant but while bedbugs are a nuisance, they do not present a health risk or spread disease.”
But they are far from dismissable creatures, according to those who have suffered them and the scientists researching them. “It’s a plague, an epidemic,” says a National Pest Management Association spokeswoman — and although her organisation represents pest exterminators this is not a fear-generating marketing campaign.
“It would not be extreme or hysterical to call this a pandemic,” says Tim McCoy, a bedbug research scientist at Virginia Tech University. “We haven’t reached the halfway point in bedbug numbers, they’re still on the rise.”
They show no respect, says Ecker, of class or creed: “We’ve inspected the fanciest apartments on the Upper East Side and one-room studios downtown. Doesn’t matter how big or clean or small or dirty your place is, bedbugs will make themselves at home.”