As COVID-related restrictions eased during the year and travel continued to rise nearing pre-pandemic levels, bed bugs had more hosts to hitch rides with during the year. Our data shows an increase in bed bug activity throughout the United States relative to the previous year. But where are bed bug infestations most prevalent?
We decided to answer this question and analyzed data from customers who purchased our products for bed bug detection and prevention during the year. It won’t come as a surprise that large cities with higher populations also have more bed bugs. So we created a second list adjusting for population size and the results may surprise you.
We selected a random sample of 50,000 customers who purchased our bed bug-related products in the United States during 2022 and ranked them by city. We then utilized 2020 U.S. Census Bureau population figures to examine bed bug activity zones on a population-adjusted basis.
Top Bed Bug Cities by Number of Customers
New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles take the lead in this analysis and prove that highly populated areas and international travel hubs always have a lot of bed bug problems. This is the case as bed bugs often hitch-hike on luggage and spread easily to homes and apartments.
Every year, Orkin, one of the largest pest control service providers in the country, releases a list of top cities for bed bugs. However, there are some important differences to note and interesting conclusions to draw from our data compared to theirs.
First, Orkin’s data is based on treatments performed whereas ours is based on bed bug-related products sold.
Second, Orkin does not service the entire United States. Our sales data analyzed for this study includes customers in over 7,000 cities across all 50 states.
While many of the cities in both top 25 lists are the same, it is possible that the differences can be at least partially due to the severity of infestations, and therefore, the different ways people deal with the problem. Often people who are dealing with smaller infestations purchase EcoPest bed bug interceptors or glue traps.
These products are great for detecting and confirming bed bug infestations, but also highly effective at capturing bed bugs and eliminating smaller infestations. However, larger infestations will require a service provider like Orkin to fully eradicate the bed bugs.
Based on a study by bed bug expert, Dr. Richard Cooper, evidence shows that low-level bed bug infestations don’t require harsh pesticides and can be successfully managed with bed bug interceptors. Other experts agree and Dr. Dini Miller, Professor of Urban Pest Management in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech added, “What I found most impressive about Rick’s research is how they could eliminate so many of the bed bug populations with just the use of interceptors.”
Top Bed Bug Cities by Number of Customers (Population Adjusted)
We decided to analyze our data further and produce a population-adjusted look at bed bug hot zones around the country. We believe this is the first analysis of its kind and provides an interesting perspective not widely studied or known.
New York City, the #1 spot on the first map, does not even make the top 25 when adjusting for its nearly 9 million residents. Chicago falls from #2 down to #18, while Pittsburgh and Cincinnati climb from #12 and #13, respectively, to #1 and #2.
Bed Bugs in 2023?
As evident in the data provided, bed bugs are active pests and disrupt a good night’s sleep in many cities all across the country, but is this just a temporary trend, or are they here to stay?
Bed bugs remain one of the most persistent and dangerous pests in homes, and it’s more than likely you have an encounter with these nasty bloodsuckers at some point. Most of the time the infestation begins from a single female bed bug that can reproduce at amazing speed, hatch over 300 eggs in a lifetime and create a problematic infestation in just a couple of weeks.
In a journal article for Laboratory Medicine at Oxford Academic, written by Katelyn Williams, BS, and Monte S. Willis, MD, Ph.D. in 2012, we know that bed bugs are not a thing of the past, and their numbers have been increasing over the past few decades.
“Attention to these parasites largely disappeared until the past decade, when their incidence grew sharply due to increased international travel, the use of less-effective insecticides, and growing insecticide resistance among bedbugs. Bedbugs can be found virtually anywhere, including homes, offices, hotels, and hospitals. They are a severe nuisance and have a real psychological and financial impact on those infected.”
Our data lead us to believe that bed bug infestations will continue to rise in 2023 as travel, both domestically and internationally, is likely to hit or exceed pre-pandemic levels. While it’s not realistic to avoid cities or travel because of the increased bed bug population, it's a good idea to get familiar with the tools and methods to mitigate the likelihood you catch an infestation and ensure you eradicate it quickly if you do.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Infestations?
Preventing a bed bug infestation is a lot easier (and less expensive) than dealing with an active one, so you might want to take proactive steps that can help:
- Travel safely and always check your hotel rooms for a possible bed bug infestation
- Examine second-hand furniture for bed bugs
- Place interceptor cups under your bed to monitor and detect bed bug infestations faster
- Clean and check your home regularly for any signs that bed bugs might be present