A Post About Bedbugs
I was asked to write something about bedbugs, so here goes…
I don’t know much about bedbugs. I did a Google search recently and found out that they started to become a problem in New York City about four years ago. This was the first year I noticed all of the mattresses out on the sidewalk though.
It’s not just apartments that get infested either. Abercrombie & Fitch, at both their Soho and South Street Seaport stores, were infested and had to shut down while they fumigated and destroyed their stock. Hollister’s, in Soho, also closed for two days while they dealt with the problem. And a Victoria’s Secret shop in Lenox Hill was closed while they inspected for bedbugs, after a siting. The AMC-25 movie theater in Times Square also closed for two days to eradicate the pests. Those are just a few incidents.
One thing that almost every article I read never fails to mention is that bedbugs are making a come-back after the decline in the use of DDT, which is a foolish assertion. DDT has been banned for almost four decades and bedbugs have only become a problem in the past four years. What people forget, if indeed they ever knew, is that insects quickly become resistant to insecticide. There a good post on New York vs. Bedbugs Dot Org to this effect. It also has a link to an article in Pest Control Technology, an industry publication, titled “Insecticide-Resistant Bedbugs: Implications for the Industry“. Using a dose 10 times the norm, insect populations in New York State and elsewhere were rated as having zero percent mortality.
They also say that bedbugs do not make class distinctions; both rich and poor alike are affected. This ignores the cost of extermination though, and replacing beds, sheets, blankets, clothes, etc. As usual, epidemics that make no class distinctions affect poor people the hardest.
One thing I’m worried about, if they ever infest our apartment, is that I will be blamed for bringing them in, due to my constant photographing of these mattresses. I always tell Owen to stay away from them when he’s with me, and he does, but you know how superstition works: If I photograph them I steal their souls, and if I possess their souls it’s only a matter of time before their bodies follow.
So what does this photo have to do with bedbugs? I will tell you.
One trend I noticed in my mattress photographs is that they’re almost all taken in the Lower East Side. This makes sense to me, since it’s where I live and where I traverse, but it might give the (false) impression that the problem is limited to this area. This epidemic affects the entire city — the entire country, in fact — not just an historically poor neighborhood, which is not so poor any more. So this past Saturday I decided to take my bike and scour every street from 14th to 34th, from the East River to Fifth Avenue, taking pictures and noting the location of every mattress I saw.
It didn’t take long before I learned something very important about the abandonment of bedbug mattresses: they’re only put out onto the sidewalk on trash collection days. It makes perfect sense, but it didn’t occur to me before. Saturday is not trash collection day anywhere in my circumscribed area.
It was a nice day though. Eventually I stopped riding back and forth and stayed over by the East River. When I reached the 37th Street exit I decided to continue northward, to see how far it went before stopping. That’s what this picture is: the terminus of the East River Park walkway at 40th Street.
And do you know what I found there? A mattress!