What's Bugging Queens?
From Bed Bugs To Mosquitoes,
They're All Creeping In Our Corner
BY NICK BUGLIONE
First there were the Asian Beetles, then
the mosquitoes and now experts have claimed that even the local population of bedbugs is
With creepy crawling creatures making
headlines and instilling fear into the hearts of residents of what seems to be becoming to
be the Big Apples "buggiest" borough, the Tribune offers an in-depth look
at some of the insects bugging Queens.
THAT GO BITE IN THE NIGHT
Goodnight, sleep tight and
dont let the bed bugs bitea statement most Queens residents have probably
heard a thousand times from parents upon settling down to sleep. Yet after waking morning
upon morning with no signs of having been bitten by one of these mysterious insects, most
may not even believe they exist at all.
But they do, and in fact, theyre
becoming a significant problem in the borough, according to entomologist and exterminator
Bloom, who has been in the extermination
business for over 20 years and claimed to be interested in entomology, the study of
insects, his whole life, said that there has been a marked increase in the number of
Queens bed bugs cases in recent years.
Whereas in the earlier part of the 1990s
his company, the Astoria-based Standard Extermination, would maybe get only a five or six
bed bugs calls a year, Bloom said that in the past few years customer complaints have come
"Were now averaging five or six
bed bugs calls a month," Bloom added. "Theres definitely a rise in bed
The apparent fluctuation of the insect
interested Bloom, who is the vice president of the New York State Pest Control Association
and an adjunct professor at Queensborough Community College, and lead him to embark on a
study along with the help of the Cornell University Agricultural Extension.
The two-tiered study, which officially
began in July, involved sending out surveys throughout New York City to pest control
officials and entomologists, as well as interviewing people suffering from bed bug
"Were expecting everything to be
done near the end of October," said Bloom, who added that once the study is complete,
the results will be presented at the New York State Pest Control Associations
meeting in the Catskills.
Upon its completion, officials will be able
to determine possible factors that have contributed to the increase in bed bugs, which
Bloom speculates could be caused by construction or the presence of new immigrant groups.
HAVE COME TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD
The diminutive bed bug,
usually only one quarter to three eighths of an inch in size, is a blood-sucking pest that
feeds upon humans, domestic animals, wild birds and other wildlife.
Bed bugs are oval in shape, flattened,
wingless and have a reddish-brown color. Like the mosquito, the insect is nocturnal and
feeds primarily at night by attaching on to its host, piercing the skin with a long beak
that pumps blood into the bugs stomach. It usually takes a bed bug between three and
15 minutes to complete feeding.
Bites from the insects, which are small,
hard and white, can lead to swelling and considerable irritation, caused by an allergic
reaction to the saliva that is introduced early during feedings.
While the pest gets its nickname from its
penchant for infesting the seams and folds of mattresses and bed covers, bed bugs can also
be found in loose wallpaper, pictures, floor cracks, couches, chairs and even clothing.
Females can lay about 200 eggs, usually at
the rate of three or four a day, which take about 10 days to hatch depending on the
temperature (the insects are very sensitive to high temperatures, for them 70 degrees
Fahrenheit is ideal). Bed bugs reach maturity usually in five to eight weeks, with their
life span lasting anywhere between six months to a year and a half.
And while its most commonly found in
old hotels, homes and boarding houses, the pest can pop up in offices, theaters,
restaurants and even vehicles. When food supplies get cut off, the insects have been known
to migrate house to house through pipelines, and theyre also easily transported
through suitcases and laundry.
Bed bug infested areas tend to have a musty
odor, and are often accompanied with other telltale signs. Blood on sheets and mattresses,
black spots on surfaces where the insect has been and the presence of molted skins are all
indicators of the insects presence.
As with many insects,
keeping a house clean is a good preventive measure against the infestation of bed bugs.
"Prevention and early detection is a
big part of it," said Bloom. Yet in an unsanitary environment detection can be
"By the time you notice it, you may
already have a significant problem," he said. Bloom also recommends that people be
wary of the mattresses and clothes they buy, and make sure that theyve never been
"Overall, insects are positive. Only a
small percentage, less than 10 percent, are harmful," said Bloom. "Theyre
also important to protect, we need insects."
THE DEADLIEST BITE
Arguably, the best-known
critters bugging the borough are mosquitoes, especially the ones carrying the dreaded West
Queens, like the rest of the City, has had
to endure another summer with the deadly disease, although this years outbreak has
been significantly smaller. Health officials credit intensive surveillance efforts and the
current pesticide spraying campaign as reasons for the decrease in human infections.
The most recent pesticide spraying in
Queens took place on Sept. 6, as the city conducted ground spraying in several cemeteries
throughout Woodlawn that were not treated last weekend as originally scheduled.
During the Labor Day weekend, New York City
Health Commissioner Neal Cohen announced that evidence of the West Nile virus was
confirmed by the New York State Department of Health in two birds, both crows, collected
from Queens. The discovery of the infected birds prompted city health officials to spray a
two-mile area of Cambria Heights on Sept. 3.
Cohen also reminded residents to continue
eliminating areas of standing water around their homes throughout the mosquito season.
For more information on the West Nile
virus, spraying activities, spraying precautions, or to report dead birds and areas of
standing water where mosquitoes breed, Queens residents can call the Health
Departments West Nile virus information line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at
1-877-WNV-4NYC. Extensive information is also included on the citys web site at www.nyc.gov/health.
As fall approaches Queens
residents look forward to the end of mosquito season but should be aware of other creepy
Roaches, ants, earwigs, centipedes, wasps
and yellow jackets are the primary insects residents should be aware of, said Hal Byer,
owner of Magic Exterminators. Byer warns that there are preventative measures people can
take to avoid bringing bugs in and to reduce the need of a professional exterminating
According to Byer; roaches, waterbugs and
ants enter homes through wall cracks, slabs in the basement floor, broken windows,
improperly fitted windows, doors with spaces underneath, unkempt garages and bad grading.
Proper grading is determined by measuring
the slope of the earth a house sits on. This effects how water flows from the house. If
water drains against the wall instead of away, the water will find a crack in the surface
and pressure its way in, forming a crack.
Earwigs (which dont really crawl in
your ear), millipedes and centipedes are insects which require a high moisture content to
survive and will often be found in rooms including the bathroom and kitchen.
They also enter through basement slabs but
are mainly found in woodchips, heavy foliage surrounding the home, old tree stumps, under
stones, garbage, unventilated crawl spaces and attics and in dirty gutters.
The pollinators, including wasps, bees and
yellow jackets are not easily deterred. "They are natural and needed in the
environment," said Byer. "Its a shame to kill them [ but they can pose]
danger if a person is allergic." In the event of infestation, its strongly
recommended that you call an exterminator to remove the nest.
MAKES THESE INSECTS TICK
A growing concern to
residents that increases the further east you travel are ticks, found primarily in tall
grass and deer areas.
The Department of Health (DOH) works to
continually educate the public on this disease-carrying insect, most active during the
summer and fall. The deer tick that can be the size of a sesame seed mainly
carries lyme disease. Symptoms that can develop within a couple of days to a couple of
months, include rash, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck and pain in muscles and joints.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, the disease can progress into meningitis, arthritis and
heart problems. Although a vaccine is available, it is only 70 percent effective.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever carries
symptoms similar to Lyme disease.
As the DOH continues to collect information
to identify areas where people may be at risk for tick borne diseases they recommend
taking the following precautions when outdoors in tick infested areas:
walk on cleared trails
check every few hours, and when you
return indoors, for ticks attached to clothing or skin
check children and pets carefully
use insect repellents containing
DEET following directions and washing off when returning indoors. (DEET should not be used
on infants or pregnant women.)
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants
with the legs tucked into the socks, and closed-toe shoes in grassy or wooded areas of
parks, beaches, and other vegetated areas
Ticks are easier to see on light
THE BEETLE BATTLE
Following the conclusion of
their survey for additional Asian long-horned beetles in Flushing MeadowsCorona Park,
Parks Department officials have recently confirmed that no more of the insects have
been found infesting other trees.
"We have not found any additionally
infected trees other than the first ones found," said Parks spokeswoman Amy Chiu.
Prompted by the discovery of the
tree-destroying beetle in three maple trees within the park in late July, Parks officials
conducted an extensive search for any signs that might verify a continued presence of the
With the initially infected trees already
removed and disposed of, coupled with the fact that no additional beetles have been found,
Parks representatives have concluded that the insect is no longer present.
Richard Fasanella contributed to