A Victoria's Secret store at Lexington and 58th streets in Manhattan was forced to close for several hours last week due to an infestation of bedbugs. A Victoria's Secret spokeswoman called the infestation an "isolated" case, and the local press is reporting that the store reopened soon after being sprayed down with insecticide.

Victoria's Secret isn't the only store to have been invaded by the tiny biters; recently two Abercrombie & Fitch stores in Manhattan (the SoHo and South Street seaport locations) were also temporarily closed due to bedbugs.

Bedbugs are commonly found in urban areas, and New York City in particular has seen a dramatic rise in reports of infestations over the last few years. Once mostly eradicated from Western environments after widespread insecticide use became de rigueur in the '50s and '60s, recent increases in populations are attributed to resistance to the chemical compounds that once killed them easily. Bedbugs in NYC have been found to be 264 percent more resistant to a commonly used, formerly effective pesticide than those in Florida that haven't been exposed to the chemical.

The wingless, tough-backed insects are hard to eradicate once they've moved in. They feed exclusively on warm-blooded animals (including human beings). The hardy bugs can survive extreme temperatures, severely dry environments, and the eggs can wait for years for the right conditions to hatch. They can live for a year without feeding.

Bedbugs usually come out at night. They often feed while their hosts are asleep, and about 30 percent of people won't feel the bites, which typically feel like a mosquito sting but last longer. Luckily, bedbugs generally do not transmit disease, so they are considered more of an unpleasant pest than a public health issue.

Ironically, one of bedbugs' natural predators is ... the cockroach.

See also:

How to kill bed bugs

Bed bugs: An irritating epidemic