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Brooklyn, NY Legal Blog

Monday, January 29, 2018

Signs That You May Have Been Exposed To Bed Bugs

A lot of people in New York City live in apartments.  A lot of people travel to different destinations all around the United States and the world and stay in a hotel.  You expect that whether you are staying at a hotel or whether you are at home, that the place you are staying at is clean.  Then one morning you wake up to find itchy bite marks on your arm or leg or back. You do not know what caused these bite marks.  You then remember hearing or reading a news story about bed bugs or hearing a friend tell you about an experience with bed bugs.  You then wonder, “is my bite mark a bed bug bite?”  You then ask yourself “how do I know if I have bed bugs?”

What Is A Bed Bug?

Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals.  They are tan or brown in color, though they can appear more red after they’ve had a meal. They’re usually about 5 millimeters long as an adult, or roughly the size of an apple seed. They have flat bodies and can’t jump or fly.  Bed bugs move by scurrying along the floor or wall at about the speed of a common ant.

How To Check Your Room For Bed Bugs?

Early detection is key in an effective treatment – the sooner you identify an infestation, the sooner you can cut off their food supply and their ability to reproduce. You’ll also be dealing with a smaller population than if you act quickly rather than wait weeks to treat your apartment. With that in mind, let’s jump right into how to inspect a room for bed bugs:

While bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, it’s not likely that you’ll find any running around in the open. If you do see a bed bug out in the open, that is a bad sign because it suggests that you have a high active population nearby. In most cases, you are more likely to find signs of bed bugs in your apartment or hotel room than you are to find the actual bugs themselves. Here are some examples of signs that your apartment or hotel room have bed bugs:

  • BLOOD SPOTS: Blood sports are dark, they’re red and they’re round. This is arguably the most common sign of a recent bed bug feeding. However, they’re not the most convincing indicator of bed bug activity, since there are other bloodsucking vermin that could leave these spots behind.

  • FECAL DROPPINGS: These thin, dark streaks are left behind as bed bugs digest their latest blood meal. These droppings are made by heavily digested blood; they’ll smear red if you dab them with a wet cloth. Bed bug feces are usually smeared in thin streaks since they poop while walking.

  • SHED SKINS:  Like other invertebrates, bed bugs shed their exoskeletons as they grow. When one shell gets too cramped, they shed it and grow a new, roomier shell in its place. Since bed bugs need a blood meal to grow to their next stage, finding these skins means that bed bugs have been feeding on somebody nearby.

  • BED BUGS:  If you do find a live bug, pay close attention to its shape, size, and color. Bed bugs are mostly round with a pointed posterior. Their shell is a dark reddish brown, and they’ll grow up to be about the size of an apple seed. They have six legs, short antennae, and no visible functional wings. Make sure the bug you find matches this description before jumping to conclusions.

You should also check your bed for signs of any bed bugs since bed bugs feed on you while you sleep, the bed is naturally the primary “hot spot” for bed bug activity. You can start to inspect a room for bed bugs by inspecting the sheets, pillows, mattress, box spring, headboard, footboard, and frame. At the very least, you’ll need to have a flashlight and a stiff card like a bank card or index card to help scrape stuff out of tight spaces. Make sure to perform your search slowly and thoroughly so you don’t miss anything.

Start by inspecting your sheets on all sides of the mattress, both the surface and the underside. Check the seams of the mattress and lift the seams to look under where they tend to fold over. Lift the mattress off of the box spring and check underneath, then check the seams and underside of the box spring.  Remove both the mattress and box spring from your bed frame so you can inspect the joints and edges of the frame. If you have a headboard or footboard, check both sides of them and pay close attention to any wooden seams where pieces connect. Once you’re sure you’ve checked everything, you can put the bed back together.

Bed bugs also like to hide away in places out of sight and out of reach, such as between baseboards, floorboards, and the edge of the carpet. It’s also common to find bed bugs hiding away in nearby furniture like nightstands and dressers.  If the apartment or hotel room has hardwood or tile floors, shine a light (e.g. a along any cracks or spaces between floor panels. Remember, a bed bug has a very flat body that can hide anywhere a credit card can fit. Use a bank card or something similar to scrape along cracks and crevices to try and dig out anything that might be hiding in them.

Also as a last measure, check any hanging picture frames or other wall decorations. Pull the cushions off any sofas or love seats in the area and check their seams for warning signs. Remove the drawers from dressers and nightstands and look inside the emptied cabinets for any signs that there are bed bugs present.

What Should You Do If You Have Bed Bugs?

The most important thing to do is to document the presence of the bed bugs in your apartment or hotel room.  Take photographs of the bites.  Take photographs of the bed bugs, if any are observed.  You can also take a video of the room to document the presence of the bed bugs.

If you think the bites that you have are caused by bed bugs, go to a doctor or a dermatologist to confirm the bites were caused by bed bugs.

If you have bed bugs and you live in an apartment building, notify the landlord or management about the presence of bed bugs in your apartment.  If you are staying at a hotel, inform management about the bed bug presence in your hotel room. All notices should be done in writing and you should keep a copy of the correspondence that was sent. 

Often times these people will refuse to take responsibility and help you out.  You should also contact a local agency to document your bed bug exposure.  In New York City, you can contact the New York City Housing Preservation and Development, who will then schedule a time to come and inspect the apartment or hotel room and document its findings.

We have experience holding these companies responsible for their negligence. If you have been exposed to bed bugs in your apartment or hotel room, contact The Law Offices of Effie Soter, P.C. to discuss your situation.  The lawyers at The Law Offices of Effie Soter, P.C. offer free initial consultations to discuss your rights. You can contact us at 646-604-7384 or via email to learn more about your rights so that we can obtain the best outcome for you.


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