They hide during the day and feed at night. They’re looking for warmth (preferably, between your sheets). They want your blood.
Part infestation and part psychological torture, Boston has seen a surge in bed bugs in the past 10 to 15 years, according to city inspection officials.
Although the Allston-Brighton neighborhood a reputation for used furniture that bed bugs might inhabit (hence “Allston Christmas’’), it’s not the only neighborhood where residents should take precautions against these pests.
According to John Meaney, Assistant Commissioner of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, bed bugs have spread to every neigborhood of the city as more and more students (who move the most often) move here and adopt used beds and other furniture off of the streets.
Map of official complaints to the city about bed bugs in Boston, 2008 to 2014:
A common misconception about bed bugs is that their presence is tied to uncleanliness. Bed bugs simply rely on their human hosts to move them, either on used furniture, luggage, clothing, and used mattresses, for instance. “It doesn’t mean the person isn’t clean,’’ said Meaney.
Bed bugs live and breed in the dark crevices of furniture, usually the seams of mattresses, crevices in box springs, and the backsides of headboards, giving them their name. But they can also hide out behind pictures, under old wallpaper, and under floor baseboards.
In Boston on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the Inspectional Services Department began making their rounds of streets in Boston, tagging furniture, mattresses, and carpets left on streets and yards with orange “Beware of Bed Bugs’’ sticker tags. These tags not only warn area residents to leave the used furniture alone, but also alert landlords to dispose of the tagged items before a new tenant carries them right back into the residence. Saturday and Sunday the inspector officials will be out in full force, citing illegal dumping, but also tagging suspect items as the mayhem of movers clean out furniture and get ready for September 1.
Inspectors will also be speaking to tenants they see moving out, not only to interview them about bed bugs, but to inquire about the heat, sanitation, and maintenance of the residence they’re leaving.
“We want to make sure what needs to be done is done before people move in, because once they do and they realize there are bed bugs or other pests, they aren’t happy,’’ said Meaney.
Although bed bugs aren’t known to transmit diseases, according to the CDC, the pests can cause severe allergic reactions to their bites that range from a small bite mark to anaphylaxis. The bites can also cause skin infections, but more than likely, the pests actually drive people crazy. Anxiety, insomnia, as well as other physical reactions to emotional stress are common because getting rid of bed bugs is a such costly and frustrating process.
There are 22 U.S. states and one territory with laws addressing bedbugs. Massachusetts is not one of them, but landlords in Boston are responsible to make sure the apartments are pest and rodent-free. Boston Inspectional Services holds the cases and complaints of bed bugs open for six months since removing them takes repeated treatments and monitoring.
Are you worried that your apartment might have bed bugs? Report the complaint to the City of Boston Inspectional Services Department.