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As 2016 proceeds, it’s our opinion that the bed bug problem in New York City is as bad as it’s ever been. A difference between now and 2010, when bed bugs reached a fever pitch in the media, is that news outlets are not covering the problem with the same ferver as they did 6 years ago. Yet we’ve found more live bed bug infestations this year than any year since we’ve been in business, and have also encountered some of the worst infestations we’ve ever seen. Too many infestations are still being detected much too late in the game, and studies have shown that the heavier a person’s bed bug infestation becomes, the greater the chance there is of that person unknowlingly transferring that problem to somewhere (or someone) else.
At the same time, we’ve also been called out more times this year than ever when our inspection resulted in no bed bugs being detected at all. We’ve searched hundreds of single family private homes and apartments this year and not found a thing, either when searching visually or utilizing our K9 team. Back in 2010, what we’d see in the New York area would be people getting bed bug treatments without ever locating a bed bug. The most common reason: the occurance of bites, in combination with the panic that the media had created.
Now in 2016, one of the most common reasons customers utilize our service remains the same: someone in the household is getting bites, but they’re not sure if it’s bed bug bites, or something else. In sharing what we’ve learned over the years, and especially this year, when bed bug false alarms have reached an all time high, here are 3 scenarios we’ve learned to look for when providing our inspections:
1. We’re often called out because a person has many bites on their body – dozens and dozens of bites received in a very short period of time. In this scenario, it’s helpful to realize a couple of important things that wind up being favorable towards those bites not being a bed bug infestation: a) when a lot of bites are received in a very short period of time, there has to be a large population of bed bugs performing those bites, and b) bed bugs become much easier to find when they are larger in number. This is a prime example of our inspections resulting in no bed bugs being found. One example in July involved a person who had spend a weekend with his family at a fair, where an areas of the fair grounds had been converted into a children’s zoo. Not being sure how he’d gotten so many bites on his body, and obviously worried he’d brought bed bugs home with him, we were not only able to tell him he hadn’t brought bed bugs back home with him, but we were able to speculate that the bites he’d received were probably a result of the outdoor environment he’d experienced at the fair that weekend – being outdoors, with trees, water, and animals present – and insects swarming.
2. While no one is definitely qualified to identify a bed bug bite correctly every single time, the look & pattern of a bed bug bite becomes more familiar to someone who is used bites regularly. What we frequently see when asked to look at a bed bug bite, and then finding a live infestation, is either the bites are very individualized, equivalent to a pock mark (similar to a chicken pock or measle), or, the bites are a series of 2 of 3 bites very close together. What we don’t normally see are bites resulting in rashes becoming rampant or sizable upon a person’s body, or, bite marks which have an identifiable center point that looks to have been performed by a needle (ie. a typical mosquito bite). These false alarms can be other occurances as well: ie. dust mites, which can create severe skin irritations as mites come in contact with the skin, and giving the appearance of bites, or, carpet beetle fibers, which when airbourne, can land upon a person’s skin, and create the sensation of a bite.
3. Many bed bug bites wind up being received at a place outside of the home, during vacations or long weekends. What we encounter frequently is someone who goes away for a weekend, and who then calls us on a Monday or Tuesday because he or she has noticed bites which resemble what they’ve seen in pictures. The obvious hope is that if it was bed bugs that performed those bites, that they didn’t wind hitchhiking their way back to that person’s home. And many times, they don’t. Typically a bed bug bites and hides, and fortunately bed bugs may bite a person in a motel room, or at a camp, but then the bug immediately goes into hiding within that room, and not within that person’s belongings. In 2015, we performed many inspections where bed bugs weren’t found in the home, even though the person looked like they had bed bug bites.
In each of these scenarios, a bed bug inspection was sensible and justified, because a customer wants peace of mind, and figures he or she is better safe then sorry. It also helps knowing that not every single bite automatically means that bed bugs are present.