“Worst Bed Bug City” is an award that nobody will show up to receive. It’s not pleasant to think of your hometown as a bed bug “hot spot”. But while bed bugs are active in all 50 states, some urban and metro centers see more infestations per year than others. Let’s go through the list and discuss why these bed bug cities are the unlucky winners:
#10: Phoenix, AZ
The capital of Arizona is the only state capital with more than a million residents, making it easily the most populous capital city in the country. Its sprawling suburbs give Phoenician bed bugs ample opportunity to find new homes to infest. On top of that, Arizona’s famously hot and dry climate leads to long summers with residential air conditioning running day and night. This mild indoor climate is ideal for temperature-sensitive pests like bed bugs.
Phoenix has been one of the top 10 bed bug cities for a few years in a row now. Public sightings of bed bugs have been reported by the local news over that time, with bed bugs spotted in hotels, airports, restaurants, schools, and even libraries.
#9: Atlanta, GA
The 9th worst bed bug city is also the 9th largest metropolitan area in the US. As the home to the world’s busiest airport, it makes sense that Atlanta would struggle with bed bug infestations. These creepy critters have lots of commuters and travelers to hitch rides with, allowing them to easily move from one infestation to the next.
But it’s not just about population and travel. Atlanta also has a warm, humid climate, with long summers and generally mild winters. These conditions are ideal for bed bugs to thrive and reproduce, since their activity level is tied to the overall temperature of their surroundings. In places where it’s warm most of the year, bed bugs will spend less time hibernating and more time feeding and breeding.
#8: Washington, DC
The nation’s capital is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 20 million tourists flying in annually. While the city itself is not exceptionally populous, commuters from nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s daytime population significantly during the week. Unfortunately, many of those commuters will take home more than a paycheck.
A recurring theme of our lists of bed bug cities is weather. Like Atlanta and Phoenix above, DC is also home to a toasty, humid climate. With warm springs, hot summers, and mild falls, bed bugs have a long season every year to feed and reproduce without any temperature fluctuations interrupting them.
#7: Baltimore, MD
Continuing the trend of bed bug cities in subtropical climate zones is Baltimore. This independent city features warm springs and autumns most years, while only three months out of the year have daily average highs below 50°F.
But Baltimore offers more perks to its native bed bugs than just sunny days and air conditioning. It’s a large metro area on its own, and is within commuting distance of Washington, DC, a major travel hub and fellow bed bug cities finalist. Add on the city’s thriving tourism and shipping industries, and you have a recipe that allows bed bugs to travel into Baltimore and stay put.
#6: New York, NY
The five boroughs of NYC used to be one of the five worst bed bug cities, but The Big Apple seems to have turned things around in recent years. While there are still hundreds of thousands of infestations treated every year, New York has slipped down the ranks of bed bug cities.
The decline in infestations may be due to government efforts by the city and state. The City of New York offers a bed bug hotline to report infestations, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development conducts urgent inspections after reports are received. Under the NYC Bed Bug Disclosure Act, landlords are required by law to notify prospective tenants about any bed bug infestations that have occurred on their property within the last year.
#5: Cincinnati, OH
For various reasons, the state of Ohio has faced some of the worst of this bed bug epidemic over the years. Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati have all been frequent flyers on our lists of bed bug cities, and this year is no different. For 2019, the third-largest city in Ohio is the fifth worst of the big bed bug cities.
Cincinnati has three major sports teams, a huge university, a modern streetcar system, and a nearby airport that acts as a major travel and shipping hub. There’s a lot in the city to attract visitors and residents, and a lot of opportunities for those newcomers to bring bed bugs with them. While winters are colder in Ohio than in the subtropic states, summers in Cincinnati are long and warm enough to give bed bugs plenty of time to mature and reproduce.
#4: Detroit, MI
While the city itself has seen major population decline over the last several years, Detroit’s metro area is second only to Chicago’s in the American Midwest. With its busy airport and riverport, as well as the busiest crossing between the US and Canada, Detroit welcomes visitors for business and pleasure every day. That means bed bugs have ample opportunity to get around town to their next infestation.
While their rank as one of the worst bed bug cities may seem bleak, it’s actually a nice improvement for a city that once topped our list. Due to active efforts by both government agencies and pest management professionals, reports of infestations are down by about 15% this year compared to 2017 and 2018.
#3: Chicago, IL
The third most populous city in the country is also the third most popular city for bed bugs. The metro area that’s affectionately referred to as “Chicagoland” is an absolutely enormous array of cities and suburbs that is home to 10 million people. This gives bed bugs plenty of options to hitchhike from one of Chicago’s airports or public venues to one of so many nearby residences.
As an international hub for finance, industry, and transportation, Chicago has heaps of planes, trains, and cars moving in and out all day, every day. Bed bugs love hiding in clothes, luggage, and personal belongings to travel from their birthplace to a new home, where they can settle down and start a new infestation of their own.
#2: Philadelphia, PA
Continuing the trend of bed bug cities in the Northeast and Midwest is Philadelphia, the second top travel destination for American bed bugs. Sitting at the center of the densely populated Boston-Washington corridor, Philadelphia welcomes travelers from Boston, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, and DC, along with other visitors from around the world.
Much like neighboring Baltimore, Philadelphia features a humid subtropical climate. This means hot and muggy summers with short winters, a favorite arrangement for bed bugs looking to start a family.
#1: Columbus, OH
Back to defend its title, Columbus has retaken the rank of one of the worst bed bug cities in America. But with less population, less travel, and colder winters than many other cities on the list, how does Columbus keep coming up as number 1?
Like with other cities, the popularity of Columbus is definitely a factor. As one of the fastest-growing cities in North America, Columbus features both a bustling urban populace and a rapidly expanding metro area made up of suburban communities. This means that both urban pedestrians and local commuters face a risk of crossing paths with bed bugs in the city’s many public places.
While not as warm year-round as the southern bed bug cities on this list, Ohio’s capital still has long, hot, and muggy summers thanks to its humid continental climate. The average daily high is over 60 degrees Fahrenheit for more than half of the year, and the cold and dry winter period tends to come on gradually rather than snap in overnight. This works out favorably for bed bugs that have grown accustomed to the same temperatures that humans are comfortable in.
Did your city make the list? Do your part by reducing the risk of infestation! Early prevention is key, so check out our guide on how to prevent bed bugs, both at home and on the go.