That’s about right, in my opinion. (New York Magazine on NY Transit) The New York Times is still reeling from the loss of four lives yesterday – including three MTA workers – when a bed bug infestation caused the MTA to swaddle the Manhattan subway with a wall of bug-shy workers. One MTA worker has been hospitalized with a broken ankle
The two most common bed bugs found in New York City are the Asian Long-legged Bed Bug (Arachne fuliginosa) and the African Green Bed Bugs (Vibrio cholerae). Unfortunately, both types of bed bugs – which tend to be not so easy to spot when they are first sighted – are often highly resistant to repellent insecticides. That means the best way to keep an African Green Bed Bug from biting or causing a rash is to regularly change your clothing or bedding every couple of weeks to use natural insect repellents. So far, all signs that bed bugs are in the subway is the smell of rotting meat, along with occasional complaints about a loud, wet and warm room. However, in their native habitat, African Green Bed Bugs are found in damp places on the ground, which may explain the smell . That’s a great tip for any NYC-based business, given that some subway vehicles can have multiple feet of grime as many as 10 feet tall… and it wasn’t always that way. As a result of a 2003 survey , the New York City Transit Authority reported that of the roughly 120,000 riders surveyed, there were only about a dozen reports of bites. The subway was already among the least contaminated mass transit systems in the country according to the National Institutes of Health , so it made perfect sense for the public to start taking it seriously (at least from a public health perspective) and start treating the subway for bed bugs. For about 30 years the problem was not so seriously considered – the subway smelled ok, the MTA put up a wall of bug-shy people, and the city ignored the problem completely. Of course, what should have been an easy life of crawling around, nibbling on bugs and doing occasional nasty things like peeing on the walls was quickly turned into something far different… a nightmare. While the MTA does put up a wall of bug-shy people, their efforts are limited: they don’t actually screen for bed bugs. But that might soon change. Thanks to a new study in the NY Daily News, they are starting to roll out a free test to determine if someone has bed bugs. The MTA currently doesn’t test for bed bugs, and the MTA does not know whether bed bugs are infesting the system. However, there is evidence that they could be around: in the New Times report below, a worker at the city’s transit center had a rash of welts at a local hospital and a subway worker in the Bronx was treated at a local clinic with a “lame-duck” rash .
Why are bed bugs spreading so far?
The short answer: Bugs are attracted to cool, dry rooms. They’re attracted to damp places too, like the undercabin and the stairwell. The more humid air helps them get a better grip on the insects that they hunt by sending them farther and farther into the damp places they can find. The MTA does have a few solutions to dealing with bed bugs, but they are not foolproof and they don’t get rid of the bed bugs in the long run: 1) They need to keep some open doors and stairwells and closets clear of dirt and debris so that when the bugs come in, they won’t have a chance to rest. 2) They need to spray a repellent that can kill all bed bugs, or at least get most or all of the bugs out, at the very least.
If you have a place that is in the middle of the night, that might be enough for the MTA. Other options include removing the furniture and placing a large piece of cardboard on the entrance door (like some type of sheet metal) or a piece of paper (like a tarp). Some researchers don’t even take this step because they aren’t sure of the best repellent. But they do find bed bugs that have been sprayed with repellents do tend to get more frequent bites. That should at least temporarily resolve some of the problems. Although it might be hard to believe, they don’t die once they become “repelled” and the insect is no longer an problem.
One other solution, as my colleague Jodie Burdett has pointed out many times, is to eliminate old and infested furniture and carpets from the subway: New York State mandates that tenants be told if their apartment has worn down from sitting open. Even if this isn’t