New Yorkers are used to their fair share of urban wildlife. There are the famed New York City cockroaches, of course. And mice and rats are expected in any gritty city. But the proliferation of bedbugs is a phenomenon that has gained a great deal of exposure recently, both in the press and by word of mouth among city dwellers.
The Nature of the Beast
Bedbugs are tiny nocturnal insects roughly the size of an apple seed, and feed exclusively on human blood, says Bill Cowley, owner-operator and vice president of Cowley's Termite & Pest Services in Neptune City, New Jersey. An adult female bedbug can lay between one and five eggs daily, and they hatch about a week later.
Fortunately, bedbugs aren’t as hungry as vampires. They don’t seek a blood meal every day, and can go several days—and even up to a month or more, if necessary—between each meal. Some experts say they can live for up to a year without feeding.
While experts don’t believe that bedbugs carry diseases, they can cause an allergic reaction in some which causes a red blotch or welt and makes the skin itch, much like a mosquito bite, says James Skinner, owner of A&C Exterminating Corp., a pest management company based in Long Island. And not everyone responds to being bitten.
Itchy blotches aside, perhaps the most damaging effect of a bedbug infestation is psychological. Going a round or two with the little blighters can sometimes trigger delusional parasitosis in infestation victims—the belief that your home is still infested with parasites, even long after the actual bugs have been eradicated. “You can start getting really paranoid,” Skinner says.