Volume 20, Number 44 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 27 - November 2, 2010
Even clean freaks can get bugged
BY Michael Mandelkern
According to Dr. Edgar Butts, assistant commissioner of Veterinary and Pest Control Services for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, even the cleanest person in the world can still get bed bugs.
Butts gave a presentation on bed bugs at last week’s Community Board 1 Quality of Life Committee. He answered general questions, provided tips on combating the pests and addressed local accusations that exterminators have been charging exorbitant prices for their services in Lower Manhattan.
The blood-sucking critters, squeezing into tiny crevices, amidst clutter, spreading over furniture and even traveling between apartment units, have become a nuisance Downtown.
“They’re quick little critters,” said Butts.
Patricia Moore, the committee chair, bemoaned a $20,000 fee to eliminate bed bugs in her residence. She asked Butts if the city’s Department of Health could force landlords to deal with bed bugs in order to make residents less susceptible to high costs.
“Some of them [exterminators] are getting wealthy,” Butts admitted.
He noted, however, that the city does not recommend particular companies to consumers or sponsor any private companies. He advised the committee to ask exterminators to show their licenses and provide several quotes to ensure the exterminator is a professional.
Butts urged those living in multi-resident buildings to immediately notify their landlords if they suspect any presence of bed bugs. He also assured the audience that bed bugs do not spread disease.
“Don’t panic,” he said, “you just need to understand what a bed bug looks like.”
Butts told the audience to keep an eye out for skin shed and blood spots and warned them against scratching a suspected bite.
He then outlined a thorough pesticide job, which is not a one-shot deal. He said an exterminator couldn’t eradicate bed bugs in an apartment or home with one visit because “it’s difficult to control the eggs.”
To avoid bed bugs, Butts instructed the committee and concerned citizens to wash and dry their bed sheets once per week in a hot cycle. Steaming and heating up the unit at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours helps kill bed bugs but is an expensive operation.
Bed bugs generally do not survive for over five weeks, but according to Butts only 30 percent of bugs that New Yorkers identify are indeed the tiny yet growing nuisances.
What was originally planned to be a 12-minute presentation extended well past that time frame as concerned citizens and committee members pressed on with their bed bug inquiries. Noticing the duration of his agenda, Butts apologized for going past 12 minutes but Moore insisted that the committee was engaged and that the discussion should continue.
Butts was more than enthusiastic in trying to calm people’s nerves. Among other tips, Butts told the audience not to purchase generic pesticides not certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.