Rats 'n' Bedbugs

Visualizing the rat and bedbug population of New York City.

hipster shit


Rats 'n' Bedbugs is an on-screen interactive visualization of the rat and bedbug populations in New York City.

The interface consists of a map showing the concentration of rats and bedbugs at different focus levels: the entire city, the five boroughs, and the community districts.The focus changes by zooming in and out of the map, through simple mouse clicks on or off the area of interest. This zoom is accompanied by scattering or flocking of pests as the numbers get adjusted, creating a smooth yet disturbing interaction.


The idea for this project came to me after moving to the city and seeing rats all over the place, and reading that there are approximately 5 rats per person in New York City. This made me very uneasy and I felt that making a project about it would help desensitize me.

The bedbugs aspect of it came from my girlfriend, who is as freaked out about bedbugs as I am about rats.

There is plenty of data on this subject, most notably the NYC Health Rat Information Portal and the New York vs. Bed Bugs website. Since the numbers are in the millions, the amount of pests shown will be scaled according to the number of people living in the area of focus. For example, if 1 000 000 people live in Manhattan and 5 000 000 rats live in Manhattan, this could be represented as 100 human sprites vs. 500 rat sprites.


Rats 'n' Bedbugs was created by Elie Zananiri.

I used Dan Shiffman's steering sketches as the base for all my flocking algorithms. Stella Kim designed the awesome hipster with the shifty eyes.

The application is written in Processing and Java. The map was drawn in Illustrator, then the points were imported into an XML document. All the data was scraped from the NYC government site and the Rats vs. Bedbugs site, then added into the same XML document. This document was then loaded in the application to drive all the data.


* Application [Mac OS X]
* Images [Flickr]
* Screencast [Vimeo]