Bedbug Registry Creator Talks Infestations, Prevention, and the Worst Reported Cases in New York City
By all accounts, the bedbug front keeps getting scarier. See "Sick Fucks Now Promoting Bedbug-Infestation as a Revenge Tactic." But what, really, is the state of the bedbug? Is all this talk just a bunch of fear-mongering? Or is the city's battle over bedbugs just beginning? We caught up with Maciej Ceglowski, the man behind the Bedbug Registry, which compiles user-submitted bedbug reports in cities across the U.S. and Canada. (Next up: the UK).
Maciej, how did you end up starting the registry?
I'd just moved to San Francisco and was staying at a hotel while I looked for a place to stay. My girlfriend at the time, in New York, had told me bedbugs were inundating her building, so I was aware of them. I felt kind of itchy that night in the hotel, but thought I was being paranoid. The next day I saw what I thought was a tick in my room...after researching, I realized it was a bedbug, and I also saw how difficult it was to get rid of them and how easy they could spread. Also, I noticed there was no centralized place on the Internet to find out where bedbugs had been reported.
What did you do at that particular hotel after you saw the bedbug?
I put the bug in a cup and carried it around with me. I think I even waved it at the manager. I checked out after one night, but I didn't demand a refund or anything, I felt bad. I went to the laundromat and put all my stuff in the dryer to kill any bedbugs. The thing with bedbug bites is, they can can take a while to show up. They're also distinctive from person to person.
So you started the site as a place to centralize information for people? What reactions do you get from the hotels listed?
I've gotten cease and desists, most recently from the Comfort Inn in Utica, Michigan. They'll send huffy letters from the manager saying things like "It's our policy not to have bedbugs."
Do you screen or check submitted entries?
I read everything as part of my lovely morning routine. I try to write back to people who post a negative report to make sure they didn't have the wrong branch and that sort of thing. If it's about another insect or it doesn't have a valid email address, I take it down, and I edit to remove proper names. With hotels I'm more strict about requiring photos, multiple reports, etc.
Where do you think we are in the bedbug crisis?
It seems that there a few stages places go through. New York is kind of ahead of everyone else. People are very aware of what's going on with their neighbors, and nobody's that surprised to hear about bedbugs. New Yorkers don't think, for instance, that you can just throw out or cover up your mattress and have them be gone.