Bedbugs on the March

Calls to 311 up 34 percent over past year

The mighty bedbug is once again rearing its ugly, blood-hungry head.

New York vs. Bedbugs, a local advocacy group, says there were more than 9,200 bedbug complaints to the city's 311 line in 2008, a 34-percent jump over the year before. And this of course doesn't reflect calls made directly to exterminators.

"There are lots and lots of people who are having a devastating experience with bedbugs," Renee Corea, co-founder of New York vs. Bed Bugs, told the New York Post. "We are already regarded as the most highly infested city in the United States."

Corea got involved after falling victim to the microscopic scourge herself.

The data show the hardest hit areas include central Brooklyn -- where reports have doubled, northern and eastern Bronx, midtown Manhattan, a section of eastern Queens, and the north shore of Staten Island.

The city has experienced an explosion in the bedbug population over the past seven years. In 2002, the city recorded just two bedbug violations. By 2004 the number had jumped to 377.

The resurgence has been blamed on the banning of powerful pesticides and an increase in international travelers coming to the city.

"Anyone who stays in a hotel, rich or poor, can bring them home in a suitcase," Richard Kourbage of Kingsway Exterminating in Brooklyn, told the New York Times in 2005. "Some of the best hotels in New York have them."

The beasts are nearly impossible to eradicate thanks to their ability to go as long as a year without feeding on human blood. Worse still, they reproduce at a rate appropriate for a creature that spends its entire life in bed.

A City Council hearing is scheduled for next week on bills that would ban the sale of used mattresses, train exterminators to handle bedbugs, and force city agencies to develop a united strategy.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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