Philly’s Bedbug Problem

Thanks New York: Your Great Bedbug Plague has come south and invaded our lives (along with the stinkbugs and squirrels). Now only a few good men — and their dogs — stand between Philadelphia and a hostile takeover.

Indeed, while bedbugs have been grabbing all the headlines, lots of other critters are determined to infiltrate Main Line and Philly houses, too, keeping business robust for pest generalists like Daly. There’s the brown myotis bat, which tends to fly into homes through open windows or cracks in attics. (Nothing like getting in bed and suddenly realizing a bat is dive-bombing your duvet.) A Gladwyne couple was horrified to notice that the picturesque English ivy surrounding their swimming pool had become the lush headquarters of a particularly chubby and bold family of rats. When the rats began leaping gaily through the ivy, tails aloft, the Gladwynites went nuclear, calling in an exterminator to bomb the furry invaders with poison in a rodent Tet Offensive.

Pests bring out the primitive cave-dweller in even the most seemingly sophisticated suburbanites, it seems. One Chanel-clad socialite walked into her Main Line hallway last summer and spied what she thought was her son’s toy snake, then noticed it was wriggling right toward her. The diminutive gal hied herself to the garage, grabbed a shovel and beat the reptile to death. Up in Bucks County, another homeowner woke one night to find this year’s “in” rodent, a flying squirrel, perched on his bedside table, staring at him with Disney-ish black button eyes. Startled, the man sat bolt upright, and the squirrel climbed to the top of a wardrobe, whereupon the man chased it out a window with a shovel, while his wife slept blissfully through the whole episode.

For those who are less resourceful, Daly does the dirty work, and happily. “I’m helping my customers, so it’s certainly more than the money,” he says — though the money, he adds, is very good, with eight to 10 jobs per day starting at $45 per visit, six days a week.

Anyway, back at the country club, after changing the glue traps (all empty) in the boiler room, Daly peeks into the dining room, where elderly ladies are nibbling the crab salad. Looking at all the cushy carpet and plush chairs, you can’t help thinking it might be a likely home for bedbugs. “Nope,” says Daly, his mustache still perky after six hours on the job. “I’d have heard about it by now.” Plus, he’d have to call in a colleague from another firm to deal with it.

“My wife won’t let me treat bedbugs,” he explains. “She’s too afraid we’re going to get them.”

OVER AT GEORGE AND LESLIE’S, things are looking good.

By last spring, they’d seen no bugs or bites, and finally, they called in the Overlines, whose beagle has twice inspected the house and found nothing. The couple estimates they’ve spent $2,500 on eradicating the bugs; they’re relieved that they didn’t have to spend thousands more taking apart the expensive frames on their paintings and prints, where bugs can sometimes hide.