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There are bedbugs on the subway

Do you like the subway? Yes. Do you like bedbugs? No. Sadly, it looks like the two have met and are currently digging each other's company. Last Sunday, two N train subway cars were pulled off the tracks and sent to Coney Island to be fumigated after bed bugs were found on the train. A third N train car was pulled off the tracks just yesterday, after even more bed bugs were found. Thankfully, the New York Daily News reports that these bed bugs were found in areas the conductor uses and apparently not in the carriage at large…as far as we know. 

So what can we we call them now? Subway bugs? Subbugs? Trainbugs? Bug-LIRRs? What's to say they won't be taking taxis next, and taking management meetings in Midtown? Who's to say there won't be an HBO series come Fall 2016? At this rate of bug travelin'…there may very well be. 

UPDATE: GASP. SHOCK. HORROR. After a fourth car was recalled to be fumigated for bedbugs on Wednesday afternoon, the Transit Workers Union is asking the MTA to fumigate all N-line subway cars. Bedbugs were also found in the lockers of two subway workers and in the home of at least one subway conductor. However, officials are downplaying Bedbugfest 2K14. “With 6,300 subway cars, this is minor incident,” said MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg. Perhaps Lisberg is working for the Bedbug Union? We'll keep you updated as this story creeps up your leg develops. 

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Charles C
Charles C

This matter should solve by a health department, they have the choices or hire a pest control service companies to prevent enters in the people homes.

Theresa W
Theresa W

Why don't bed bugs know their place?  I like the blogger, Ned's light hearted, whimsical take on a not so fun subject.  And he makes a good (and funny) point that these critters seem to be expanding out of their namesake's location.  Well I guess BBs are just catching on to the pulse of the City, ambitiously moving out of beds, trying to creep up in the world.

Sean v
Sean v

This article is disgustingly unadulterated fear-mongering. Not that I turn to Time Out for serious news, but this is an insanely un-wise way to address something that supposedly affects a very large portion of your readership. 

The only ounce of "news" in this article, is a reference from an actual article from the Daily News, and is immediately editorialized by "...as far as we know." Yes, that's what news is. If you want to find out more, as the source for our news, do your damn job and call a source to find out. Don't editorialize the only known fact (which is actually a significant one that should be comforting to all) just to remind the readers they should be so damn scared.

Clearly, all TONY cares about is resorting to the ignorant, unsubstantiated fear and stigma attached to the word "bedbug." A proper, appropriate response might be to contact the MTA themselves. Short of that, perhaps contact a bedbug expert, or at the very least, someone who is at all knowledgable about the situation. It wouldn't be that hard. I'm pretty sure Orkin and Bell Environmental keep normal business hours.

So let's be a little bit clear here, and instead of fearmongering (which everyone is doing, not just the Time Out), let's look at the facts. The N train is, I believe, the R160 model train, with eight cars, three of which are conductor cars. The bedbugs have only been found where the conductors are. Now let me ask, how many have seen a passenger rider pass through that room? I know I hav I haven't seen that. They're kind of designed that way, for the conductors protection.

Now you're wondering "Okay, so what if one wanders out?" Maybe. But take a close look at those doors. They are heavy sliding dors surrounded by rubber on all sides. These bugs are small, but that's still quite a barrier to pass through. And why would they? They have what they want (tasty conductor flesh) right there waiting for them. In order for the bug to travel, it would have to be such a bad infestation that the bug decided "hey, i've got a better chance hightailing to god knows where then I do sticking around here." And even then, they'd have a hard time getting through that door.

Okay, but say they do make that trek. They will have to pretty much immediately hitch a ride on the first person they find. Why? Because everything inside of this model subway car is made of metal, vinyl or fiberglass. There is no fabric or even wood paneling. They have nowhere decent to take up residence. Also, it is practically impossible for these guys to travel between cars, which means these infestations are pretty much stuck on the just the conductor portion of just these three trains. And maybe the do make it out and catch a ride on you. The thing is, you're moving and awake. Bedbugs don't like that. They typically can't hold on, and won't approach things that are moving. Turns out they have a survival instinct just like anyone else. Fine, so it will come towards someone sitting down. Okay, but that means you have to be sitting in the one handicap seat by the conductor's door, the only seat with 10 feet of where these guys come from. How many of you recently sat completely motionlessly by the conductor's door of an N train recently?

Well, you're still probably not infected. Why? because you'd either need to bring multiple bugs with you, or that bug would have to be carrying eggs. Oh, and it would have to make it home. Most people don't just roll out of the subway and end up at home. There's a journey they have to complete, and that journey involves something called "walking" that makes it very difficult for a small, tiny-limbed animal to hang on.

Look, in the end, the truth is you're just as likely to get begbugs from riding on any subway train at anytime. You know why? Because thousands of people in this city have bedbugs, and everyone of them still rides the train. And they aren't in a locked off room purposefully separated from the rest of the riders. They're riding in the same cabin you are, whether or not there's a conductor in the car. 

I'm not fear-mongering here, I'm just being honest. Realize that these bugs aren't some mythical, doomsday creature that only come to really dirty people. They're stupid bugs that like human blood. And by stupid, I mean really stupid. Very few people actually catch the bugs on a subway, because it's really difficult for them to hitch a rider. Sure, people like to refer to them as "hitchhikers," but usually they are inside bags (like suitcases) or in interior seems of clothes, where it takes little effort to hold on. So 1) they won't easily leave these places while in transit, and 2) if they get dislodged, they won't easily find a new safe place to catch on. Also, you have to remember that one bug will need to be carrying eggs if it does, somehow, travel.

In the end, your transit today on the N is no less safe than it was yesterday. Okay, maybe .05 less safe. 

And here's another thing. Let's end this stigma. The worst thing about bedbugs is our ignorant fear of them. They have never killed a single human, nor have they ever transferred any serious sickness or disease. They are tiny, useless creatures. If you get them does it suck? Of course, but it's not impossible. Catch them at the first sign, and you can eradicate them. Is it expensive? Not unless you own. Otherwise, your landlord is required to pay. 

Finally, they can happen to anyone, and yes, that means you. But that does not mean you are dirty or unclean, and you shouldn't be ashamed. That also means that you shouldn't consider anyone else dirty or unclean. Why? Because this can happen to anyone. It could simply be a trip to a laundromat, a movie theater, a friends house, or a friend staying over. And yes, it could be a subway ride. But what are we going to do, stop being New Yorkers?

Elle K
Elle K

@Sean v That was a very well written response, but I just have to say that I have had bedbugs, and while the landlord does have to pay for the exterminators, you still have a lot to do on your own. You need to wash and dry every single piece of linen, and then if you don't already have them you need to buy some sort of sealable containers or bags to store them in until you're sure you're bed bug free. My roommate's bed had unsealed wooden slats that ended up harboring them and to be safe she ended up throwing the whole frame out. Then we had to buy bed bug protectors for our mattresses. 

I understand none of this amounts to millions of dollars, but it does add up, and it's really just the physical and mental toll that makes having bedbugs such a nightmare. Living out of bags in your living room, covered in bug bites, constantly paranoid that they're not gone or you'll get them again or you'll give them to someone etc. is a horrible thing that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. And while I will still take the N train if I need to, for pretty much all of the reasons you said, I still think people are totally justified in being absolutely terrified of these devil bugs.

Sean v
Sean v

@Elle K, I don't disagree that they are a pain, and a certain financial drain. I, too, am familiar with it. Much of it is alleviated when we don't have to cover the cost of the exterminator, though.

The bigger thing I'm getting at is that the way we talk about bedbugs right now is not helping the problem. People write blogs like this, that spew ignorance and fear, and don't do anything to inform people of what the real dangers are, the steps we can take for prevention and early detection, and most importantly, that this isn't something to be ashamed of. Many people ignore them at first because they 1) they don't know the signs, 2) they don't think this could possibly happen to them, or 3) they are too terrified to admit that it has. And it's really only when you ignore an infestation that it becomes a threat to others.

And as for this article, here's what the if should say, if it's responsible. "Hey, there are some bugs found in the conductors booths. Here's an expert on the topic from Orkin. He says "don't worry, your risk as a rider is barely effected by this discovery." Now here's a word from the labor union for the MTA Conductors, "This is bad, but we're holding the MTA accountable and making sure that this won't happen again. The Subway will be even safer for our Members and you as passengers." Thanks News, you did a good job.


Is this what "pestilence" is? Like in a biblical sense, this is pretty much it, right?