Peter Krask stepped out of his New York City apartment one day last year, shut the door, and walked away forever, leaving behind almost everything he owned.
He carried away only a few items of clothing, personal records, and his computer.
Krask's apartment was infested with bedbugs. Savoring warmth, they swarmed in his DSL port, light fixtures, carpets and furniture. They'd feasted on him nightly for a year — which he spent visiting doctors in an increasing state of panic over the rashes inflaming his buttocks and other body parts before finally ascertaining the cause.
It was Cimex lectularius, the flat, cockroach-colored, lentil-sized pest whose favorite food is not just warm blood but human blood. Bedbugs are back, bigtime. According to a National Pest Management Association study, outbreaks have soared 81 percent nationwide since 2000. Their sudden resurgence in all fifty states of a formerly bedbug-free nation has caught off-guard not just the medical and pest-control industries but millions of ordinary people who now apply costly, time-consuming, potentially toxic and inconclusive strategies for slaughtering insects that inhabit indoor environments both soft and hard and can lie in wait without eating for up to a year. Finding hosts, they feed by night, doubling in size as they suck.
Lending a whole new meaning to the phrase "home invasion," the very idea stokes our deepest fears of swarming hordes and sleeper cells and sneak attacks.
Bedbug infestations at Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret and other trendy Manhattan stores last month — and last week in Manhattan's Time Warner Center, home to CNN — cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each in lost sales, furniture, equipment and merchandise, plus the wages of dozens of workers transporting, fumigating and destroying tainted goods. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
America's bedbug problem, says University of Florida entomology professor Philip Koehler, "has reached epidemic proportions."
Monday, August 16, 2010
Bed bug infestation has reached nationwide epidemic proportions.