08.24.10

America's 10 Most Infested Cities

Amid a national outbreak of the parasitic insects, The Daily Beast crunched numbers provided by a national exterminator to rank the 10 cities with the worst bedbug problem.

The creatures that spawned a million nightmares are on the attack nationwide. But not all bedbug infestations are created equal. To determine which cities have it worst, The Daily Beast reached out to Orkin, the century-old Atlanta-based pest-control company, with over 400 offices worldwide. These rankings are derived based on the actual number of treatments performed over the past 30 months (January 2008 to July 2010).

Gallery: America's 10 Most Infested Cities

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Bedbug infestations are on the rise across the country. The National Pest Management Association conducted an international study earlier this year that revealed 95 percent of the 521 U.S. pest-management companies surveyed encountered a bedbug infestation in the last year. Before 2000, just 25 percent of companies surveyed had encountered bedbugs. What’s behind the resurgence? Experts point to increased travel, greater resistance to insecticides, and lack of societal awareness. As well, the tiny red bugs bear a stigma that discourages tenants, landlords, and hotels from reporting infestations.

While bedbug stigma may be a private stress, the pesky parasites are becoming an increasingly public problem, as infestations move from residential to commercial properties. A survey Orkin commissioned with the Building Owners and Managers Association International earlier this year produced staggering results: one in 10 respondents reported bedbug incidents on commercial property. Orkin’s commercial business tripled last year, while its residential business “merely” doubled.

The midwest dominates the list, including three cities from Ohio. The problem there is so bad that the state unsuccessfully petitioned the EPA to allow in-home use of propoxur—a pesticide banned in the 1990s—to treat the pests. “Propoxur might work for a few years,” said Dini Miller, the state’s urban pest management specialist, “but then we would select for the genetically resistant bedbugs, and they would be right back." So, who’s been hit the hardest?