Just a few short months ago, insect experts were predicting a summer cicada invasion that would leave New York City looking like Egypt during the Biblical plague of locusts.
So did they ever come?
We posed this and other burning bug questions to entomologist Gil Bloom, president of Standard Pest Management—a member of BrickUnderground’s Real.Est List resource directory and the focus of this week’s Real.Est List Spotlight series—to get the latest on the city’s copious creepy-crawlies.
“In terms of NYC, it was a lot of media hype for nothing,” says Bloom, whose grandfather started the Astoria-based pest-control company in 1929. Cities, it seems, aren’t the most hospitable places for tree-chomping cicadas. “The more urban the environment, the less habitat for them.”
If so, then why aren’t we seeing them in Central Park—the most rural area in NYC? “Most people don’t realize that a lot of the grounds in Central Park have been dug up and replanted numerous times,” says Bloom. “That interrupts insect life. And perhaps Central Park was not on [the cicadas’] summer 2013 tour.”
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Other pests, however, thrive in citified situations. And Standard—which performs residential pest control services in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Nassau County and lower Westchester (and does commercial work in Staten Island)—spends a good portion of its time combating ants, rodents, flies, pigeons and the blight that is bed bugs.
The company--hailed by New York Magazine as “Best Bed Bug Warrior” in 2011, the peak of the bed bug epidemic here--uses a bed bug-killing system that combines dry steam vapor technology and chemical control measures. Standard follows up 10-15 days after the initial service to target any eggs that might have hatched in the interim.
While many find dealing with bugs to be icky business, Bloom sees things differently. “The only way to ultimately use fewer pesticides is for people to become less afraid of insects,” he says. “You don’t have to kill every single centipede or silverfish you see in your house.”
A Standard Pest technician treats a restaurant basement for roaches.
But you definitely should kill some insects. Bloom updated us on the current status of the bugs that are better off dead:
- Bed bugs: These days, people are better educated about these less-than-cuddly critters and are more inclined to take quick action after spotting a bug or a bite. “Early detection means we’re not really seeing areas that are totally infested anymore,” says Bloom. It also means it costs victims less money to eradicate the problem overall.
To stop the problem before it starts, Bloom recommends taking precautionary measures early on. “Make sure the moving company has some kind of protocol about cleaning their blankets,” he says.
And after a bed bug infestation, Bloom stresses the importance of checking surrounding apartments for bed bugs too, to better prevent such an occurrence from happening again. “Otherwise, you’re just chasing the bed bugs around,” he says. “You’re not really solving the problem.”
- Mosquitoes: The last couple of years have seen an increase in Asian tiger mosquitoes in the New York area, says Bloom. These bloodsuckers only require small amounts of water to thrive and can breed in something as small as a bottlecap.
And unlike common house mosquitoes, which typically attack at night, the Asian tiger is an opportunity biter, sinking its piercing mouthpart into anyone it comes across—no matter the time of day.
The only good news about this influx is that thus far, there’s no evidence that the Asian tiger can transmit diseases like the West Nile virus.
Standard advises city-dwellers to remove standing water that might attract mosquitoes, to use screens in windows and to keep doors closed.
A simple oscillating fan can also help keep mosquitoes away, but Bloom notes that it would need to be a pretty powerful one to really be effective.
“You can’t put up a three-inch fan and think it’s going to work,” he says, before pointing out that some folks might actually be more irritated at having all their stuff blowing in the wind than at having mosquitoes close at hand. “You need to ask yourself how much the fan is going to disrupt you.”
- Ants: Recent heavy rains have forced ants to seek higher ground as their nests get flooded out. And that higher ground could very well be your apartment.
To keep ants outdoors, Bloom recommends trimming trees and other vegetation that might come in contact with your building. Since ants travel in lines, such items could act as bridges to lead the insects directly in your living space.
Seal any gaps around doors and windows to bar ant access, and make sure not to store garbage right next to the building so as not to attract ants in the first place.
Indoors, Bloom counsels clients to use bait stations. When ants eat from the traps, they take the insecticide back home with them and ultimately kill the entire colony.
Outside, exterminators can spray insecticide along the perimeter of the structure. But be sure to repeat this monthly since those same rains that are bringing the ants into your apartment are washing away the insecticide.
- Water bugs: The increased rainfall has also led to a rise in these supersized American roaches. When sewers flood, they too head for higher ground—usually to drains and vent pipes in buildings.
“The number one thing is to stop these pests from getting in in the first place,” says Bloom.
In that spirit, he urges supers to make sure that sewer caps are shut tightly, to keep sewer lines unobstructed to the street to reduce water bug build-up, and to fix any cracked pipes or leaking roofs that might draw the bugs in.
Drains in unused sinks or showers can also have water in their traps that attracts water bugs.
“We get this in a lot of higher-end apartments because people go away in the summer,” notes Bloom.
So even if you head out of town when the weather gets warm, you might want to appoint someone to pop into your place at least every other day to run the water and keep the water bugs at bay.
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