- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Legions of tiny bloodsucking bugs are biting their way through the Big Apple, making this the city that never sleeps … tight.

Bedbugs are back, and they’re rearing their rust-colored heads not just in New York City. Specialists say the bugs are heading to other states and countries. Exterminators who handled one or two bedbug calls a year are now getting that many in a week, according to the National Pest Management Association.

“There’s an epidemic going on throughout the country, and New York seems to be the hotbed,” said Jeffrey Eisenberg, a pest control expert.

Bedbugs are turning up in hospitals, schools, movie theaters, health clubs. The pests reportedly also showed up in a New Jersey college dorm and a Los Angeles hotel — where one guest filed a $5 million lawsuit. Apartment tenants have taken landlords to court over infestations.

The current generation of exterminators has been caught unawares by these pests, which were all but forgotten for decades. The specialists blame the comeback on several factors, primarily increased global travel and the banning of potent pesticides such as DDT.

“We feel like we’re starting from scratch,” said Mr. Eisenberg, who returned this weekend from a conference in which bedbugs were a priority issue.

The tiny vermin avoid light and attack at night. About the size of a flattened apple seed, they hide in cracks and crevices in furniture and walls.

“We’ve always had pests in New York City — we have rats, cockroaches, et cetera — but bedbugs are new,” said City Council member Gail Brewer, who is calling for a bedbug task force. “We’re not doing a good job focusing on it.”

Fighting an infestation is a costly, time-consuming process. Belongings must be removed from the home to be thoroughly washed or dry-cleaned, followed by meticulous vacuuming, before the exterminator can even begin work.

People who have bedbugs rarely see them. The only signs are pepperlike spots of their fecal matter, specks of dried blood on bedsheets and, of course, the bites. The creatures can go a year without feeding, reproduce rapidly and don’t die easily.

Miss Brewer announced legislation yesterday that seeks to halt some common mattress industry practices that exacerbate the problem.

She wants a ban on reconditioning mattresses — essentially taking old ones, refurbishing them and selling them like new, which can spread the bugs into stores and homes.

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