Under the covers: P’Slope author pens book about bedbugs - Brooklyn Paper

Under the covers: P’Slope author pens book about bedbugs

Scary stories: Brooke Borel has written a book about the infestation of bedbugs in America.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

This book is not a horror novel, but it will strike fear into your heart.

A Park Slope science writer has published a book on one of the most frightening things in New York City: bedbugs. The author, who has had plenty of her own brushes with the pests, said writing the book was a coping method for dealing with the creepy crawlies.

“I found that the more I learned, the less scared I became of them,” said Brooke Borel, who will launch her book “Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World” at BookCourt in Boerum Hill on May 7. “The more I researched, it became my way of controlling the situation. I don’t really worry about them anymore.”

Borel, who is a writer for the magazine Popular Science, said she first became interested in the insects after living through a couple of infestations herself. The beasties first struck when she was living in Manhattan in 2004, and then again in 2009 in Greenpoint. The second infestation came amid a period of tremendous cultural awareness — and panic — about bedbugs, and Borel said she started to write about the maddening mites and the larger story behind their resurgence.

During her research, Borel said she discovered that bedbugs have not always been the scourge they are today. Use of pesticides after World War II made the pests extremely rare — so much so that when Borel found her first infestation in 2004, she said she thought of the bugs as nothing more than the stuff of nursery rhymes.

But the bugs never truly disappeared, and the ones that survived gradually returned from their isolated pockets — now with a resistance to bug-killers and a fabled hardiness that saw them to spread like crazy, particularly in cities where they could easily jump from apartment to apartment. That is when the country lost its mind, Borel said.

“The high point of the media freak-out was 2009 or 20010, when CBS named 2010 the ‘Year of the Bedbug,’ ” she said.

Fortunately, the hysteria has since gone down a few decibels, she said. But most New Yorkers still flip out when they see one — or think they have. And now that she has written a whole book on the topic, Borel said her afflicted friends consider her something of a bedbug sage.

“I get a lot of frantic texts and e-mails from friends, and I try to help as best as I can,” she said. “I’m not really an exterminator or anything, so a lot of it just ends up being like their bed bug shrink. They feel good knowing they have an expert.”

Brooke Borel and “Infested” at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Dean and Pacific streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875–3677, www.bookcourt.com]. May 7 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz

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