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Even Bed Bugs Fled NYC In The Past Year

Patch logo Patch 6/4/2021 Matt Troutman
a hand holding a plastic cup: A vial of live bed bugs. © Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images A vial of live bed bugs.

NEW YORK CITY – Even the bed bugs left New York City in 2021.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged and thousands fled the city for Long Island, Florida and other less-affected areas, the insects hitched rides out of town too, according to experts at the pest control company Orkin.

In January 2020, NYC was the sixth most infested city in the nation for the pests. This year, it doesn't even make the top 10. The ranking places the city in 12th place.

The list is based on treatment data from the metro areas where the company performed the most residential and commercial bed bug treatments between Dec. 1, 2019, and Nov. 30, 2020, the company said.

Most infested was Chicago, with Washington D.C. and Los Angeles making the top 10 too.

  1. Chicago, Illinois
  2. Baltimore, Maryland
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Columbus, Ohio
  6. Cleveland, Ohio
  7. Indianapolis, Indiana
  8. Cincinnati, Ohio
  9. Los Angeles, California
  10. Grand Rapids, Michigan

See the full list of top cities for bed bugs.

The human exodus from NYC might well have caused the drop. Bed bugs are widely associated with travel, hitching rides with people. But they could also just be lying in wait in empty city homes.

“Bed bugs can survive for several months without a blood meal and could be hungry if they have survived unnoticed after decreased travel amid the pandemic,” Cindy Mannes, executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance, said.

The insects are tiny — just under a quarter-inch long, according to Orkin. They’re usually dark brown or red in color and are hematophagous, meaning blood is their only food source. Bed bugs take blood meals from sleeping humans and can travel from place to place with ease, stowing away in things such as luggage, purses and other personal belongings.

If you plan to travel this summer, there are a few things you can do to prevent bed bugs from coming home with you. Orkin recommends people follow the "SLEEP" method to crack down on possible bed bug infestations:

  • S: Survey the room for signs of an infestation. Be on the lookout for tiny, black, ink-colored stains on mattress seams, in soft furniture and behind headboards. Bed bugs can even hide out in electrical outlets and picture frames.
  • L: Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots: the mattress, box spring and other furniture, as well as behind baseboards, pictures and even torn wallpaper.
  • E: Elevate luggage away from the bed and wall. The safest places are in the bathroom or on counters.
  • E: Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and once you return home from a trip. Always store luggage away from the bed. Be sure to also examine all secondhand furniture and clothing before bringing it in your home and inspect after guests visit.
  • P: Place all dryer-safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer for at least 45 minutes at the highest setting after you return home.

If you need more guidance on eliminating bed bugs from your home, the Environmental Protection Agency has a step-by-step guide for evaluating and treating the infestation.

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