Case of the Bed Bugs in the Prosecutor’s Office

Bed bug interceptor placed under chair leg.

By Marcia Anderson

My first bed bugs case as the R2 bed bug specialist was a Prosecutor who called complaining about bites on the legs and arms.

I found out that eight offices in the high rise Manhattan building where the prosecutor office is located had bed bug sightings. None of the rooms where the pests were found were contiguous and sightings were scattered on multiple floors. (Meaning they were probably from multiple sources.)

Bed bugs typically search for a meal in the wee hours of the morning and live within 20 feet of a bed. Well, when bed bugs drop into the Prosecutor’s office, they are forced to adapt their feeding schedule. When they get very, very hungry they are drawn to their favorite food source, human blood, so they come out to feed any time of the day or night.  During our lawyer’s long working hours, the bed bugs were attracted to the carbon dioxide that the lawyer exhaled and the warmth of his body, so the little vampires commenced with their warm meal.

Where were the bed bugs hiding? Envision a visit to the Prosecutors Office: Many of the offices have soft carpets, sofas and cushy chairs. In addition, some offices have tons of papers piled on the desk and files flowing onto other cabinets; the signs of a hard working, successful lawyer.  Those papers and plush materials provide the bed bugs with plenty of places to hide without the worry of being easily seen, vacuumed up or cleaned out.

Adult bed bug on human hand

Where did the bed bugs come from? The bed bugs were most likely hitchhikers that fell off the outer clothing of lawyers, staff or clients. In and out of these offices, we find lots people, all of whom are potential bed bug carriers.

Our lawyer could also pick them up when visiting the courthouse, holding facilities, jails, or even in cracks in the court room benches.  Just think about the last time you were in a court room:  remember countless hours sitting through interrogations. A bed bug could easily crawl off of one person’s belongings and onto our lawyer or his briefcase.

Advice to the prosecutor and the head of building maintenance: Steam clean all furniture, carpets and window treatments in the offices. Thoroughly inspect and clean the desks and bookcases.  Vacuum every inch of the office and repeat weekly. File, or put away, all papers not being used that day, into smooth, clear plastic boxes with lids (bed bugs have a hard time climbing up smooth plastic). Add some bed bug interceptors (with a small bit of talc or Diatomaceous Earth in the trough) under the couch, desk, and chair legs, to trap any missed bed bugs and monitor for progress.

Verdict: Bed bugs still occasionally hitchhike into the building, but they do not remain long with the building bed bug maintenance plan in place and the prosecutor is no longer being eaten alive.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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