Hunger folds and a reminder about the law

Updated below.

Last night the Museum of the City of New York hosted a bed bug program. I’m very grateful to the museum and especially its director of public programs, Ryan J. Carey, for thinking of this problem and asking us to participate in discussing it. But unlike last year’s lecture at the NY Entomological Society, I don’t think I can offer a good recap (participation not being a good vantage point for observation). What I remember distinctly is that Lou talked about the hunger folds of bed bugs (conveniently expandable for taking in lots of blood), and that a certain gentleman from London said something terrible: that “whoever brought them in” should be responsible for eradicating them.

For the record, the landlord is legally responsible in New York City for the eradication of bed bugs. One can go on at length about all the ways that landlords need help in fulfilling this responsibility, and how there is no hope of success when the tenant is not cooperative (or when the pest management professional is not diligent) but, as far as the law, it’s difficult to conceive of the wholesale disaster that bed bugs would be in this city if it were otherwise.

Update: I just recalled that there were some questions in the audience about basic resources — a collection here, but some basic ones specific to the city:

Update 2: I should say that I like and respect David a lot (exhibit A, B, C, and D), but we have our disagreements like to argue from time to time. He never forgets to remind me that we only became friends after a strong initial disagreement, about something or other long forgotten.

And here’s commentary about the evening from BrickUnderground. Please note, however, that I am not aware of any new law requiring inspection of adjoining apartments. There is only a stated intention from the Health Department, announced in the summer when the bed bug advisory report was released, to hold landlords (and tenants) to “enhanced expectations” that would specifically involve additional inspections. There have been no further details about the development of such a policy. But we should all be on the lookout for news on that front (and dare we hope, actually press the city about it), as it is very promising.

Update 3: Here is another writeup from Woman Around Town.


  1. David Cain

    Hi Renee,

    I also said we were all responsible and it was an issue that can affect us all.

    I do recall having to reply to a certain charming lady casting comments about them all being from the UK or was that just that we used to be heavily infested in the 1930′s and got a fine public treatment program in place to help everyone deal with it.

    Sadly modern times does not seem to have the UK system working as well as it used to.

    Fresh thinking is needed all around and I am sure I clarified that I felt that if a property was clear at the start of an infestation the tenant had some level of responsibility but as we all know its more important to resolve the issue than to play the blame game.

    Its also true that good treatments are needed to provide solutions at all ends of the social and financial spectrum so that everyone has efficacious options to help them when they need it.


  2. Renee Corea

    I would be the last person on earth to say that all bed bugs come from X country. And I wouldn’t characterize the policies of the 30s as fine. I said, in reference to a question about bed bugs as a public health problem in society, that our best historical records are from interwar Britain, and they show the opposite of what was being suggested (that somehow bed bugs were not important in the past, or not as important as they are now), because in fact they were, a serious subject with significant impact.

    But of course, always interesting, David. I hope you had a nice time in NY.

  3. Lou Sorkin

    As I noted last night, the hunger folds are present in the adult insect on the abdominal venter of segments 2-5. Since there is less sclerotization in the immature nymph stages, there is more membranous area to stretch and allow the gut to fill and the body space to expand to accommodate the blood meal. Adults have less membranous area (except for this hunger fold area, but the membrane between abdominal segments) and more sclerotized or hardened body segments, hence the need for a stretchy area to accommodate the large volume of a blood meal.

  4. Pingback: January 18: bed bug panel at the Museum of the City of New York

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