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Bedbug boom: The little bastards are spreading!

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One hotel put raw meat on a cookie sheet, then left it on a bed overnight. (This was not an effective way to catch bedbugs.)

Another property instructed staff to refer to the insects as “ticks” rather than “bedbugs,” because somehow ticks were less frightening. (This was not an effective way to reassure creeped-out guests.)

And in 2008, the Tropicana offered staff $25 for every bedbug captured and delivered—dead or alive, presumably.

It’s that final example—the bedbug bounty—that UNLV professor Christian Hardigree calls a smart response to a growing problem. Hardigree is a bedbug litigation expert, an attorney who, in the past three years, has spoken about bedbugs at 35 trade conferences, worked numerous bedbug court cases and advised everyone from pest-control companies to cruise ships on the management and mitigation of bedbug problems.

It’s a growth business. Some entomologists predict that 50 percent of American households will be infected with in the next decade, if not sooner. The insects—which can be small as a poppy seed or, filled with blood, big as a typed Times New Roman “O”—forced two New York City Abercrombie & Fitch stores to shut down in July; it was the latest fiasco in a city that’s seen bedbug complaints swell more than 50 percent since 2008, prompting civic players to declare war on bedbugs last month.

At the rate bedbugs reproduce, one is enough to start an infestation. Worse, they can go for months without a “blood meal” and are good travelers (aiding their spread across the U.S., despite being almost eradicated through DDT use after World War II.) And cleanliness has nothing to do with it. Bedbugs can live anywhere.

“Vegas,” Hardigree says, being discreet, “is not immune.”

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Abigail Goldman

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