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The Bed Bugs Are Coming; The Bed Bugs Are Coming!

“A decade ago bed bugs were still the vermin of lore–blood-sucking creepy-crawlies laid to waste by the amazingly effective (and toxic) pesticide DDT.”  It appears that DDT no longer gets the job done as reports of infestations are coming from all parts of the country.  Although the exact cause remains a mystery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chalk up their resurgence to “increased resistance of bed bugs to available pesticides, greater international and domestic travel, lack of knowledge regarding control of bed bugs due to their prolonged absence, and the continuing decline or elimination of effective vector/pest control programs at state and local public health agencies.”

While every major metropolis has reported infestations in 2010 (as well as a rapidly increasing number of smaller towns), some cities have been harder hit than others.  In order to get a handle on the “epidemic,” Forbes Magazine contacted the nation’s two largest pest exterminators, Orkin LLC and Terminix, to find the cities with the worst bed bug infestations. Each company has 400 offices nationwide and compiled a list of the hardest-hit metros, based on the number of calls they’ve received and bed bug jobs performed relative to population. From their lists of the 15 cities with the worst bed bug problems, Forbes created another one of their “rankings” by selecting out the 13 cited by both. (I have created a ranking list that I will be happy to send.)

What they found was densely populated urban epicenters with high turnovers of tourists and business travelers – New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – were among the worst sufferers, as were metros in Ohio – Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton – the state with the biggest bed bug problem.

We in Detroit are not spared as Orkin ranked us #5 and Terminix gave us a #3.  It makes me feel a little uncomfortable knowing that both my city of birth – Cincinnati – and my adopted home – Detroit – both come in high in the rankings.  I guarantee that both my home and that of my mother are free and clear, thus making me blameless.

Getting rid of bed bugs is complex. It can take up to several visits and treatments. While immediate attention is needed to eliminate the problem, the good news, as Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology and IPM coordinator at Penn State University says, is that “bed bugs don’t carry diseases and are physiologically the same everywhere.” Unfortunately, he finds it necessary to add to this last point, “There aren’t super bugs in Detroit or something like that.”