CINCINNATI — We may not be No. 1 anymore, but the Tri-State remains a hot spot for bed bugs. Cincinnati ranks eighth on Orkin’s annual “Top 50 Bed Bug Cities” list, which is based on the number of residential and commercial bed bug treatments administered in a year. Chicago has the dubious honor of topping the list for the fourth year in a row.
The good news is that Cincinnati is dropping in rank. After peaking at No. 1 in 2011, the Queen City has steadily fallen to its current No. 8 position. Unfortunately, the drop most likely isn’t due to fewer bed bugs in the area; instead, an increase in other cities’ bed bug populations is likely the reason.
“I don’t think it’s getting any better,” said Jim Graham, Cincinnati branch manager for Orkin. “But it’s not getting any worse. The number of calls and services we do for bed bugs remains consistent. Our calls do tend to go up in the summer, and I don’t know if there’s a good reason for that.”
Yet in Hamilton County, the number of bed bug complaints has dropped significantly. In 2011, the Public Health Department received 238 complaints, 120 of which led to confirmed cases. In 2015, it received 88 complaints, of which 46 were confirmed. So far in 2016, the department has received 49 complaints and confirmed 22.
“When we first experienced the bed bug issue, people weren’t familiar with them,” said Greg Kesterman, assistant health commissioner. “If the landlord wasn’t responsive, the health department would set the standard of what to do. Now people are more educated and understand what their responsibility is.”
Kesterman said when Hamilton County Public Health receives a bed bug complaint, it sends an inspector to investigate.
“Their job is education, whether or not we find bed bugs. If we find one bed bug in a bedroom, there’s an obligation for the landlord to treat it,” he said.
In Northern Kentucky, the number of bed bug complaints isn’t tracked. However, Steve Divine, director of environmental health and safety for the Northern Kentucky Health Department, suspects their numbers are leveling off compared to past years.
“We used to get calls from people afraid to use restaurants and movie theaters, or go to public places where they thought they might get bed bugs, and that’s really dropped off,” Divine said. “We try to educate people so they can take care of the issue on their own.”
Graham said researchers are working on new treatments to combat bed bugs and developing new methods of eradication, such as baited traps, that would be effective on even the most resistant critter. However, it’s going to take continued education and diligence on the part of homeowners, renters, landlords and travelers to knock Cincinnati off the top bed bug cities list.
“There continues to be that, ‘Why me? I’m not a dirty, disorganized, person’ sentiment,” Graham said. “That’s absolutely not the case. Bed bugs have no respect for where you live or how much you make. If you think you might have bed bugs, hire someone to treat it immediately. Getting rid of them is a lot easier if there’s just a few, before it becomes a full-blown infestation.”
If you’re curious about other bed bug hot spots in the nation, Orkin's home page offers a “pest radar” where you can select bed bugs, or a number of other creepy-crawlies, to determine where and when they’re most active.