Bedbugged! is a weekly column by journalist and bed bug survivor Theresa Braine. For more, click here.
I am uber-aware that all over the city, people are moving to escape bed bugs, having done so myself. Trouble is, they are using the same moving vans as the rest of us. And many may not be as assiduous as I was in making sure the pests didn't come with me.
I look at them. “Really?” I say. “Do you remember whom you’re talking to?”
Because, dear readers, if someone has moved their unsealed, un-fumigated, bed-bugged stuff in the van before you hire it, chances are—depending on the level of infestation—that a bug or two, or more, has fallen off their possessions and is hanging out in the truck. Hitchhikers can be left behind in the vans and infest the next mover, which could be you or me.
Few moving companies have protocols in place to avoid transmitting bedbugs, says Timothy Wong, director of M&M Environmental, a New York City pest-control company with a booming bed bug business.
One could think of those moving companies without the protocols as callous or clueless. But in fact it’s virtually impossible to take measures that completely eliminate the chance of bed bug transmission and still stay in business. Luckily, some NYC moving companies are finding ways around the issue and begun offering services that guard against bed bug transmission.
Gil Bloom, president of Standard Pest Management and New York magazine's Best Bed Bug Warrior of 2011, pointed out that with fumigation costs for an empty household-sized truck running up to $1,000 a shot and taking up to 24 hours, putting a truck through Vikane treatment between each client would be prohibitive cost for the moving company.
You could, of course, take on the cost of fumigating your moving truck yourself—an especially smart idea if you're moving from bed bugs.
But, notes Jim Rueda, owner of New York City moving company Moving Right Along, “It’s almost impossible for the moving industry itself to address the issue. The problem is the customers who don’t admit they have bedbugs, and the guys out on the truck, [who] don’t know what to look for.”
Thus, some of the six-legged work is up to us. Rueda suggested having a canine inspection of the moving van before loading it up. Barring that, he said, wrapping each item tightly in plastic could help keep out bugs.
“Then strip all the plastic off before you actually bring the furniture into the apartment,” he said. “I would imagine it’s going to add at least two hours to the load-up and two hours to the delivery, possibly.”
There is a silver lining though: Movers are starting to find ways of working around the bed bug problem.
Earlier this year Moishe’s, a long-standing moving and storage company in New York and Chicago, started offering what it calls bed-bug-free moves. Its website proclaims the company has a “very thorough policy to prevent bed bugs,” which includes eschewing moving blankets in favor of plastic wrap on furniture, monthly fumigation of moving trucks and periodic canine inspections to make sure nothing has hitchhiked from a previous move.
Bloom consulted with Moishe’s for Brick Underground and was impressed.
"Unlike any other company that I know of, they apparently do have an organized, systemic way of addressing the issue," he told Brick.
Plastic wrapping is exactly what Dan Eigen, operations manager at Seaman’s Moving in New York, does as a matter of course. He said his company does not reuse mattress bags or moving boxes and wraps everything in fresh plastic, both to keep bed bugs in or out and to avoid damaging items during a move. Seaman’s also periodically washes all blankets and other equipment, he said.
Eigen recommended that people choosing a moving company should check for such practices at the very least. And watch out for used items such as moving boxes. You might be offered some “free” ones, Eigen said, but you’ll “get the bed bugs for free too. That’s part of the package. You get a good deal, you get the bugs too.”
Even so, these are all precautions, not guarantees, since a truck can be infested from any move, at any time, and bugs can crawl through very tiny spaces. But taking measures like this reduce your chances greatly (and even ease your mind). They may cost a bit more, but nothing compared to the price—and nightmare—of catching bed bugs.
Theresa Braine is a NYC-based journalist and bed bug survivor whose work has appeared in the NY Daily News, People, Newsday and other outlets. Bedbugged! is her weekly column about life in the trenches and climbing out with your sanity intact.
How to bed bug proof your move (sponsored)