The Real.Est List
Beyond bed bugs
Bed bugs are dominating New York City's collective consciousness this summer, but they are not the only creepy crawlies running amok in some of the priciest real estate in the world.
Indeed, far from being oppressed by this summer's heat and humidity, the city's insect population thrives in it, reproducing almost twice as fast as in the winter, says BrickUnderground’s pest control guru Gil Bloom.
Here’s the rundown your uninvited guests, and some advice for getting them to bug off.
Back in the mid-1990s, the shocking effectiveness of Combat-style bait traps was briefly threatened.
“Roaches have a recessive trait against glucose, and it reached a point where they stopped feeding on most baits,” says Bloom, an entomologist who is president of Standard Pest Management in Queens. “There was a frenzy among manufacturers to reformulate away from the glucose.”
Fortunately the improved bait worked, and roaches have fallen from the #1 indoor urban pest to the third or fourth, says Bloom. (Tied for #1: Bed bugs, of course, and….ants?)
Cluttered Collyer’s-type apartments can become roach reservoirs affecting neighbors, says Bloom, but today the typical roach problem in a building has to do with the compactor trash system and recycling.
"In the summer, many compactor rooms are basically rain forests in which roaches thrive," says Bloom.
Roaches then spread from the compactor area to trash chute rooms throughout the building. Bait traps aren’t always enough to stop the problem; a cleaning of the chutes may be in order along with the application of an insecticide dust.
Lower floors have it worst of all in some buildings where the compactor system is shut off at night due to lack of supervision in the compactor room or other issues like noise.
“The garbage can stack up to the second floor by 8 in the morning,” notes Bloom.
Next to bed bugs, ants are emerging as the top NYC pest, says our bug expert.
“To some degree it’s caused by changes in the weather—frost lines don’t extend as deep into the soil. Also, buildings are spending less money maintaining trees, so they’re touching buildings,” says Bloom.
Tall buildings are not immune, and Bloom is finding species that were uncommon here just a few years back.
“One that has come up from the Florida area is the ghost ant, a very small trailing ant that runs in long lines and wasn’t really here 4 or 5 years ago,” says Bloom.
True to its name, the ghost ant (pictured bottom left) has a pale, translucent body and a dark head.
“They do a lot of foraging to establish new colonies,” says Bloom, “and they’re difficult to control in that like bed bugs more than one apartment can be involved by the time you notice them.
The cure: Proper identification (they’re often confused with other small ants like Pharaoh ants) and high moisture (but not liquid) baits.
These elongated silver-grey landlubbers (pictured top right) are named for their fish-like movement and they are sometimes referred to as “carpet sharks.”
Scavengers of starchy materials and dependent on moisture from excessive condensation or appliance leaks, they frequently show up in kitchens and bathrooms, says Bloom.
He recommends addressing moisture issues and reducing paper clutter.
4. Bed bugs
The nightmare intensifies in summer.
A bed bug’s optimal ambient temperature is around 85 degrees with 75 percent humidity. At that temperature, they are maturing in approximately one month as opposed to 1 ½ to 2 and reproducing, molting and feeding more, says Bloom.
5. Water bugs (aka American Roaches)
The largest kind of cockroach, this fat and fast beetle-like creature usually dwells in the sewers.
“In the spring, heavy rains flush them out, and they go to high ground in the lower floors,” says Bloom. The bugs return to the sewers until high summer temperatures cause them to migrate back to the buildings, not infrequently through vent pipes that can lead up to the roof of the building.
They’re frequently found under sinks and dishwashers. If you are in the basement or first floor they may even walk in by climbing up walls, through floor drains or even under the front door if there is a gap. Usually baits for waterbugs or Palmetto bugs (the insects' Floridian name) and glue traps work well.
These guys move fast, so if you can’t move quick enough to squash them, try flinging an empty pillow case over them first and pouncing second. Or toss a shoe.
7. Pantry moths
Bulk foods and less fumigation have brought the meal moth into NYC kitchens with a vengeance. Purging and vigilance are the cure.
Yes, even city dwellers can have wasp problems.
“We’ve done about 12 wasp jobs this year where yellow jacket wasps got into the brickwork where the cement was missing,” says Bloom.
“In the summer a significant number of people who think they’re being bit by bed bugs are being bit by mosquitoes,” notes Bloom.
While mosquitoes can only fly up to around the 4th floor “you do get drafts,” he says. “You can get things on the 18th floor that shouldn’t be up there because they ride the heat plains and air currents up, or because you have buildings with water on the roof.”
Mosquitoes in the lobby are usually the fault of the night doorman or the person guarding the rear service entrance.
“In a lot of buildings the lobby air conditioning goes off around 10 p.m. The doorman pops the doors open and you have an illuminated oasis surrounded by a teeming city,” says Bloom, creating a giant mosquito magnet.
In the morning the a/c kicks on, and the mosquito population lies dormant “until around 3 or 4 or 5 o’clock the a/c starts losing the battle against the heat and humidity and the mosquitoes start to fly around.”
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