The New York Daily News is reporting that one in 10 New Yorkers is suffering from bed bugs. How bizarre — one in 10 New Yorkers, battling a pest that you tend to associate with medieval living conditions.
Bed bugs are small, bloodsucking insects of the Cimicidae family. They congregate in areas where people live and bite people when they sleep. In America, bed bugs were pretty much wiped out decades ago through liberal application of pesticides like DDT. It is not clear what has led to the resurgence of bed bugs, although some researchers believe that bed bugs may have been brought back to America — unintentionally, of course — by travelers and immigrants.
It will be interesting to see how New York City addresses the bed bug problem. Given the density of New York, it seems like a unit-by-unit approach to the problem is doomed to failure. And given the great sensitivity to the environmental impact of pesticides, chemical solutions to the problem are bound to be disfavored. At the same time, however, New York’s tourism and hospitality industry is going to suffer if the City is overrun with bed bugs and visitors to high-end hotels get bitten in their swanky rooms. I predict that the jobs-producing tourism industry will win that battle and convince the City to take a broad and effective approach to the problem — even if pesticides are part of the response.