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WSJ.com: City's Problem With Bedbugs Getting Itchier

1/11/2011

Residential bedbug complaints in New York City rose nearly 7% during 2010, according to data from the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. Nationally, one out of five Americans has had a bedbug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered the pests at home or in a hotel, according to the National Pest Management Association, an industry group.

In New York, there are many more infestations than complaints and violations, said Louis Sorkin, an entomologist with the American Museum of Natural History.

"Tons of people that have infestations don't say anything and, if they are in apartments, the people next door are the ones with a complaint finally. They may not file a complaint, but they may go through the proper channels and tell the landlord or co-op board or condo owner," said Mr. Sorkin.

In 2010, there were 4,846 violations and 13,472 complaints, up slightly from 4,811 and 12,594 in 2009.

In New York, bedbug complaints are registered with the city's 311 nonemergency hotline. The landlord is notified of the complaint and the department contacts the tenant to confirm the complaint before making a site visit where a city inspector will visually inspect the home. If bedbugs are found, a violation is issued.

In a national survey, respondents said they were most concerned about encountering bedbugs at hotels, in public transportation, at movie theaters, in retail stores and at medical facilities, according to the National Pest Management Association. The association reports that bedbugs are in every state and that there is no regional hot spot for infestation: One out of five survey respondents in the Midwest and the South had encountered bedbugs, as had 19% of respondents in the West and 17% in the Northeast.

"Fairly evenly across the country, people are having experiences with bedbugs. I think so often people think Manhattan is the only city that has bedbugs," said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association.

What's ahead for 2011? "Each year it's always a little worse than the year before, because not everyone is on the bedbug bandwagon," said Mr. Sorkin, adding, "There's not enough education for people, not a silver bullet and there's not a cheap insecticide. There's not an easy way to get rid of bedbugs."
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