Nina In New York: Bed Bug Torment

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

I live in fear. The bedbugs. Are literally. Everywhere. They’re in my bed, my furniture, my chair at work, the conference room. They’re on that guy next to me on the subway, and that girl sitting over there. Hey, get away from me. Did you just touch me? I hope you didn’t. I’m sending you my dry cleaning bill.

I am tormented. Every night I lie awake, feeling the sheets for them, popping the covers up fast to surprise them as they launch their attack. I reach down to scratch my leg. What’s that bump? Oh man, it’s a bug! Oh wait, it’s a birthmark. But what’s this I feel by my foot? Oh lord, it’s a bug! Oh wait, it’s a microbial speck of lint. Only, is it? No! Oh wait, yes.

I’ve pretty much ceased shopping (an unexpected and positive side effect) and I inspect the seams of seat cushions in taxis (this, on the other hand, is generally inadvisable). Just thinking about them gives me hives, which I become convinced are bites, which gives birth to new hives, and so on and so forth. This cannot go on.

Related: CBSNewYork’s Guide To Living In America’s Most Bed Bug-Infested City

Here’s the thing: I don’t actually have bedbugs. As far as I know, they are not now nor have ever been in my apartment. But they could be! I had a brush with them in a mistake of a hotel in Washington, D.C., and I managed to leave them there. But I feel like I just dodged a Nina-seeking missile. Did you ever see “Final Destination?” You can’t cheat death—or bedbugs. It’s only a matter of time.

Related: NYC Hotels: Where Not To Stay In The Big Apple

Every year, an epidemic is announced. And every year, it gets worse. Last summer, NYC residents went to bedbug Defcon 1. Now as the warmer, bug-breeding weather approaches, the city is unveiling its new “bedbug portal” online and a tougher stance on landlord responsibility. But how much will any of that really help? Better individual education and more responsive building-owners may slow the exponential spread to some degree, but it won’t quash their very existence. There’s only once course of action that will kill them all: we need to reintroduce whatever dread chemical pesticides killed them off in the 1950s. Whatever wussy, EPA-approved stuff we’re using now is clearly inadequate. I say we blast them with everything we’ve got! We don’t want another Silent Spring, but we need to step it up. We could all just agree to use the stuff more sparingly, or judiciously, or—I don’t care. It just needs to get done, or soon the bedbugs will take over the city and beyond. And that would just be a disaster, though it would be good fodder for the next M. Night Shyamalan plot in which bedbugs are in City Hall, making budgetary decisions and enslaving the human race. Then it turns out it’s all a dream, or we realize we’re worse than the bugs because we’re mean and they’re just insects.

Regardless, it sounds awful. All of it. DDT is looking pretty good to me.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

Me And My CrackBerry

An Ode To Seamless Web

Kitchen Nightmares

Home Sweet JFK

Thank You, Law & Order

Rites Of Spring

  • Shelley

    Wow Nina this is totally my life! I am freaking out over them as well (even though I don’t have them!). I feel that we could easily figure out a way to kill them off…. some common sense and some chemicals maybe….

  • Steve Free

    Great post. What people need to know is Bed bugs in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and long island are just starting. Remember if you think you have Bed Bugs call an expert. We are a full solution exterminating company with a full bedbug divison, Visit us at

  • Chance Wayne

    This is written at the level of a high school newspaper.

  • jonathan

    Yesterday CBS New York writer, Nina Pajak, wrote an article about fear of bed bugs and thought bringing back DDT to kill these nasty parasites was a good idea.

    There are many reasons why DDT is banned in the United States. Here is just one. We hope this will help Nina’s stance on using DDT to change.

  • Mike Taylor

    See my K9 bed bug detector “Lillie “at work, on YouTube

  • Anna Norman

    Hello! I’m working on a TV program about invasive species and I am looking for people who have faced a bed bug infestation in their homes. We will be conducting short on-camera interviews in the NY/NJ area, and also in Texas. Please email if you or someone you know fits the bill! If you have photos or video evidence of the bedbugs, that is definitely a plus. Thank you!

  • charla n

    I feel as though someone planted the bedbugs to generate monies. All of a sudden this became an issue?

  • Elizabeth


    The city is cracking down on landlords that don’t take care of bed bug problems. There are better ways to get rid of bed bugs than using a harmful chemical like DDT.



  • stella

    please tell me if the following is fact or fiction:

    if you check into a hotel room and place a bar of ivory soap on your bed and turn the lights off for 15 minutes when you turn the lights back on you’ll be able to see if your hotel bed has bedbugs because the bugs will have flocked to the soap.

    • Alan Foos

      I don’t think so, Stella. It’s human blood they’re after, and then they wait until you’re very sound asleep about 4am or so. Maybe set your alarm…

  • jtorres

    I think tourists also bring them in. How many New Yorkers go to touristy places and stay in hotels in their own city? Isn’t that where out-of-towners have been complaining they have found bedbugs? Maybe they brought them with them. and then left them here for us to contend with. Give us DDT. We’re not wusses, we’re New Yorkers. I’m from The Bronx, nothing scares me — least of all a little DDT.

  • Erin

    Call Peace of Mind Canine Bed Bug Patrol.
    Sounds like you need some Peace of Mind.

  • jonathan


    Although bed bugs are a huge problem in New York and all over the United States, they are easily treated and killed by using a bed bug inspection company that pinpoints where they are in the dwelling and then you can eradicate them. DDT will never come back, nor in my opinion should it. A new solution that is very advantageous in killing these parasites is heat. Anything over 113 degrees for more than two hours will kill bed bugs and their eggs.

  • The Bedbug Guy

    This is a tough one as the above comments are correct in saying that Bedbugs are brought in by tenants but once in, they spread from unit to unit. One area not to overlook is the laundry room, if present. Bedbugs can fall off of clothing and infest the equipment and such.

    It becomes a building problem very quickly. It is essential that people in multi-family dwellings be educated. It is within the best interest of the management company or owner to educate the residents on Bedbug prevention by hiring a professional to speak with everyone. It can save everyone thousands of dollars in professional extermination fees.

  • Soap

    I got them once. I slaughtered them and now a pro at killing those blood sucker. Considering a side job as a Bed Bug bounty hunter.

  • nathan

    I check my kids backpacks and coats every day when they get home from school. I wont go to the movies and avoid clothes shopping. I stand on the subway and check seats very carefully if I am too tired and must sit. I spent 300$ on mattress covers for our apt. An old man 3 floors upstairs already had them. Im obsessed and terrified.

  • Wolf

    Don’t put responsibility soley on building owners and Landlords. The building owners and Landlords do NOT bring the bedbugs in. The TENANTS bring the bedbugs in. Tenants need to VACUUM and CLEAN their apartments and beds on a regular basis (like every few days). Yes DDT and such helps once the bugs are their, but prevention such as VACUUM every few days keeps them from becoming a problem in the first place. It all begins with the ones who bring the critters into apartments to begin with… TENANTS

    • SM

      It’s true that tenants bring them in, but once they do and those bedbugs travel through walls to other tenants’ apartments, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to treat those apartments. My friend got bedbugs from his building (which the super admitted) and the landlord refused to treat his apartment, costing him a new mattress plus very expensive extermination.

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