Bugging Out

Friday, March 07, 2008


Washington Post staff writer David Segal says stories about bedbugs generally follow a hyperbolic pattern: They’re back. They’re everywhere. They suck your blood and ruin your life. Segal talks about the hysterical coverage and explains why a bedbug story is every editor’s dream.

Comments [6]

New York vs Bed Bugs from New York City

The Washington Post's story doesn't check out.

The statistic Segal cited--that there were less than 500 actual cases of bed bugs in NYC public housing in the last three years--is false.

In FY-2007 there were 1,720 bed bug complaints by public housing residents. The NYC Housing Authority estimates that 70% of bed bug reports are indeed actual infestations. The city's Department of Housing, Preservation & Development received another 6,889 bed bug complaints in the same period, resulting in 2,008 private residential landlord violations.

Most people who have bed bugs in NYC do not call any city agency to report them as they are not a reportable pest; private residential tenants who call the city's 311 line about bed bugs do so in order to seek relief from uncooperative landlords. Thus, the true scope of bed bug infestations has not been determined, but it is certainly not what Mr. Segal reported.

Apr. 01 2008 08:02 PM
MC from new york city

this story is so misguided. The proportions of the epidemic is much larger than you think. First of all, a lot of us *don't* report our problem because we fear legal issues with our landlords. Secondly, inspections often don't turn up bugs because the bugs can live in the walls and other places where you can't see them--hence the reports that turn out "not to be bed bugs" may very well actually be bed bugs. It's only when the infestation gets bad enough and you wake up in the morning and 3 bugs fall right off of you that you even see them. Don't tell me that bed bug reports are exaggerated. I see a new matress thrown out in my neighborhood EVERY DAY. I have not been able to relax in my home for 8 months, and have had to drop out of grad school to make time for all the protocols necessary to be able to leave the house without wearing or carrying anything that isn't completely "sterile." Eventually this epidemic is going to affect the right people and the situation will no longer be viewed as hyperbolic.

Mar. 15 2008 11:23 PM
Daniel Contreras from Los Angeles, CA

No, no NO!

On this issue On the Media's story is In-the-Wrong. News coverage of the bedbug menace is not an overreaction. If anything, it is one of the few examples of a story not being covered enough. I listen to many hours of public radio daily and never even knew about bedbugs until I saw their plump, gorged little bodies crawling up my wall. Bad, bad NPR! I want my pledge back!

My tiny, one-room apartment has twice been the victim of these little critters. Headlines like "Back for a Snack", although creepy, get right to the heart of it. Very rarely in today's modern world do we face the prospect of being eaten alive. This isn't Dickensian, it's primal. Victims quickly realize they're being watched, stalked, and hunted each night by a creature only interested in them as food; something civilized man thought was relegated to our ancestors' caveman days. That kind of fear is built into our very DNA. Delusional parasitosis indeed! Only if you're not facing the nightly ritual of becoming something's midnight snack!

Please interview an OTM or WNYC staffer who's personally dealt with these creatures. While I wish no ill to Mr. Segal, I do think he'd sing a very different tune if he had to deal with the true horrors firsthand.

Mar. 13 2008 01:12 AM

It's no wonder Segal's stories have elicited angry e-mails. It made me angry to listen to him on your show. Against warning people about the actual consequence of bedbugs, he weighs the risk of people merely imagining they have bedbugs--and exterminators profiting from the press coverage. If he were weighing against the risk of excess pesticide use or the overuse of antibiotics, fine. But he makes it seem about journalistic propriety and the impugning of his profession. Feh! He wouldn't be talking this way if he'd ever suffered bedbugs. As somebody who has both naively imagined and actually experienced bedbugs, allow me to testify that the actual experience was something else entirely. So horrible and such a torment it was, even angry as I am, I would not wish it on Mr. Segal. Hopefully the pain of angry e-mails will be enough to bring him to reexamine the propriety of some of his own journalism.

Mar. 10 2008 10:22 PM

So where are you BG? Pls call office.

Mar. 10 2008 09:22 AM
Carol Morey from Brooklyn, NY

Bedbugs are nothing to snicker about. Just imagine, after going through the horrible itching, then wrapping and dumping everything out of your room, you then have to lie down to sleep in a miasma of insecticide, offering yourself up to the little bastards in order to entice them to walk through the insecticides surrounding your bed, knowing full well that you will be crawled on and violated many times that night and for many nights thereafter. Not much fun.
There is another side, however. Having bedbugs is often the result of a trip abroad, and it becomes a cachet like crossing your sevens or saying "metro" instead of "subway".

Mar. 08 2008 09:32 PM

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