Dinner and a Movie: Bedbugs favor feasting on moviegoers

By: Hudson Horizons

Thayer/Getty Experts say bedbugs need people to be steal in order to get a good meal, that's why they're likely to pop up in movie theaters.

Playing now in a city theater near you: Attack of the Bedbug.

Experts warned Sunday that cushy theater seats pose a far bigger bedbug threat than racks in clothing stores - despite last week's news of bedbug infestations at two Manhattan shops.

"In a movie theater, you are sitting in one spot for two hours. They have the opportunity to feed on you," said Jennifer Erdogan, director of Bell Environmental Services, a pest control company that fumigates movie theaters, offices and stores.

"Bedbugs need people to stop moving to get a blood meal."

Shoppers are still scratching from reports that bedbugs shut down Hollister in SoHo and its sister store Abercrombie & Fitch in the South Street Seaport.

To moviegoers, the mere mention of flesh-hungry insects noshing on audiences was worse than any horror film playing Sunday in Manhattan.

"That's sick," said Cassandre Augustine, 18, of Flatbush, Brooklyn, who was headed to see "Get Him To The Greek" in midtown. "It makes me extra germophobic. Now I have to wear long pants all the time."

None of the varmint experts contacted by the Daily News would dish on which theaters or stores they've treated for bedbugs, citing confidentiality agreements. But they all agreed: New York's bedbug problem has spread outside apartments into public spaces.

"This shouldn't be a surprise. We have more homes infected by bedbugs. All those people go to school, the office. They [bugs] go wherever people go," said entomologist Richard Cooper, who sits on the city's Bed Bug Advisory Board.

"It is a crisis. Virtually any place in New York City is at risk."

Last year, the 311 hotline got 11,987 bedbug complaints. So far this year, the bedbug complaint tally is about 5,000.

The city doesn't investigate bedbugs in private businesses, leaving it to "companies to proactively treat bedbug problems on their own," said a Health Department spokesperson.

Exterminators said they've zapped the pests in Broadway theaters, judges chambers, health clubs, stores, and movie theaters during the past year.

The critters travel in people's pocketbooks, gym bags, and on clothes - and then crawl onto office desks, sales floors and theater seats.

"Bedbugs hitchhike," said Jeff Eisenberg, president of Pest Away Exterminating on the upper West Side.

"There are people out there whose apartments are infested," Eisenberg added.

"They are walking around with bedbugs all day long. They go shopping. They go out eating. They go on the subway. And if you sit next to them you are screwed."

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