Taking a vacation is supposed to help you relax and, hopefully, make you happy. But it’s tough to find happiness if you’re dealing with bedbugs. You can avoid germ hot spots at the airport and on the plane, but what about at your hotel or Airbnb?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says bedbugs aren’t known to spread disease, so your risk of getting a serious illness from a bite is virtually nothing. Yet the CDC also says “bedbugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can … increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.” Yuck.
Increased travel is likely to blame for the spread of bedbug infestations in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Orkin and Terminix recently released their lists of the most bedbug-ridden cities in the United States. A handful of cities appeared on both lists, and we averaged their rankings out. If you’re looking to stay away from bedbugs (and, really, who wouldn’t be?), these are the 15 cities you need to avoid.
15. Las Vegas
- Average ranking: 26.5
Las Vegas is a great place for an affordable vacation, which might be one of the reasons it’s a bedbug haven. According to the Terminix ranking, Las Vegas is the fourth-worst city in the United States for bedbugs. Orkin’s ranking has the city at No. 49, so you might be OK if you know what to look for. Considering the city is home to more than 160,000 hotel rooms, the fact that it’s this low on the list indicates a modest risk.
Next: To Florida’s Gulf Coast
14. Tampa, Florida
- Average ranking: 26.5
Bedbugs made their way into classrooms at the University of South Florida in 2016, and the city is still a spot for the pests. Though sitting at No. 35 on the Orkin list, Tampa is No. 18 on the Terminix list. With the city in the midst of a hotel-building boom, it could rank higher in years to come.
Next: Steel City makes the list.
- Average ranking: 18
Pittsburgh lands on the list with an average Orkin and Terminix rating of 18. It is No. 12 on the Terminix list and No. 24 on the Orkin list, but it might not make the cut in years to come. Pittsburgh is seeing a decline in hotel demand. “There’s a lot of under construction extended-stay supply [in] about eight markets — half of which are already declining in occupancy — like Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh,” Kim Bardoul, partner with The Highland Group Hotel Investment Advisors, said to Hotel News Now. “I’m not sure that can be supported.” Fewer guests mean less chance for infestation.
Next: Desert heat is no escape.
- Average ranking: 16.5
Phoenix sits at No. 7 in the country when it comes to bedbug infestations, according to Terminix. It is No. 26, according to Orkin, but a worse ranking could be in its future. Phoenix has seen its hotel room revenue jump, per Hotel News Now, by more than 6% from August 2016 to August 2017. An increase in room stays could lead to more bedbug problems down the line.
Next: Atlanta’s problem
- Average ranking: 16.5
Atlanta sits modestly in the middle of the Terminix rankings (No. 17) and is No. 16 via Orkin. The active hurricane season could potentially move Atlanta closer to the worst cities in the future. People evacuating Florida as Hurricane Maria made landfall provided a 31% increase in Atlanta hotel room bookings from the same period the year prior. If more severe weather comes along, it could lead to more Atlanta rooms being booked — and more chances for problems.
Next: Denver checks in.
- Average ranking: 13.5
The Mile High City sits at No. 5 on the Terminix list of most bedbug-infested cities, while Orkin rates it a more modest No. 22. As the population continues to grow and more people visit for the natural splendor, beer, and other substances, don’t be surprised if Denver is on the list for years to come.
Next: The City by the Bay
9. San Francisco
- Average ranking: 12.5
As a business hot spot and tourist draw, it’s no surprise to see San Francisco make the list. The city, with Oakland and San Jose also factored in, sits at No. 10 on the Orkin rankings. It is a more modest No. 15 according to Terminix. Don’t be surprised if San Francisco stays on the list. San Francisco Travel says more than 25 million people visited for business or pleasure in 2016.
Next: Heading to Texas
- Average ranking: 11.5
As one of the nation’s most populous cities, Houston has a lot going for it. The city could even end up being the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. It is also one of the worst cities for bedbugs. Houston ranks No. 6 according to Terminix and No. 17 by Orkin. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, hotel stays in Houston are down, which could slow any bedbug spread in the area.
Next: Indy makes the list.
- Average ranking: 11
The Indianapolis area includes some of the best places to live in the U.S., but it’s also one of the worst bedbug cities. Indianapolis ranks No. 8 on the Terminix list and is No. 14 according to Orkin. An estimated 4% growth in population between 2010 and 2016 and growing number of hotels could make Indianapolis move up the list in the future.
Next: Philadelphia falling?
- Average ranking: 9.5
Philadelphia is in the top 10 of both rankings, sitting at No. 9 for Orkin and No. 10 for Terminix. Philadelphia is a major East Coast city with more than 12,000 hotel rooms in the heart of town, but it could slide down the list in the future. According to Hotel News Now, Philadelphia saw a more than 6% drop in bookings year over year through August 2017.
Next: Capital crisis
5. Washington, D.C.
- Average ranking: 7.5
With its fair share of foreign visitors, domestic tourists, and thousands of hotel rooms, it’s no surprise to see Washington, D.C., on the list. It lands at No. 2 in Orkin’s rankings and is No. 13 by Terminix. The steady stream of visitors could keep Washington, D.C., near the top of the rankings for years to come.
Next: Lake Erie monsters
- Average ranking: 7
According to Terminix, Cleveland is the worst city in the U.S. for bedbugs, ranking No. 1 on the list. Orkin ranks the Cleveland metro area No. 13, but the bedbug problem is not confined to Cleveland. Columbus (No. 5) and Dayton (No. 32) both make the Orkin list, and Cincinnati is also a problem area. In addition to having a handful of sizable cities, another factor might make Ohio a hot spot. According to Cleveland.com, bedbug problems fall under home rule policy, meaning it is up to cities to decide how to attack the problem, if at all.
Next: Baltimore harbors bedbugs.
- Average ranking: 6
Another city (along with Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia) in the East Coast metropolitan corridor is the worst of the trio. Baltimore rates as the worst city in the country for bedbugs, according to Orkin. Terminix has Baltimore at No. 11, making Baltimore one of the worst in the country.
Next: Motor City makes the list.
- Average ranking: 5
After a crippling municipal bankruptcy, Detroit is on the rebound. As the city continues its revitalization, bedbugs could continue to be a problem. Detroit sits at No. 3 on the Terminix rankings for worst U.S. cities, while it’s No. 7 according to Orkin. Bedbugs could be an issue for years to come for Detroit. The city was one of the few in the country that beat the national average in hotel room occupancy, indicating hotel stays are on the rise.
Next: Queen City is king of them all.
- Average ranking: 5
Cincinnati tops the list of worst bedbug cities in the United States, surely an honor it doesn’t want. Its average ranking sees it place No. 2 on the Terminix list and No. 8, according to Orkin. Given its relatively small number of hotel rooms and amount of convention space (9,125 and 750,000 square feet, respectively) — compared to Detroit’s numbers (28,260 rooms and 1.25 million square feet, respectively) — it puts Cincinnati on the top of the list.
Next: What to know about bedbugs
What you should know about bedbugs
Before you tuck in for the night in your hotel room, you need to know the signs of bedbugs. If your hotel has any of the following, it’s time to get out:
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bedbugs being crushed
- Dark spots, which are bedbug excrement and might bleed on the fabric like a marker would
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1 mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger
- Live bedbugs
Even if you don’t see those signs, bedbugs still might be present. They hide in a variety of places, including the mattress seams, headboard, and bed frame. Check the following, and switch hotels immediately if you see something:
- Seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains
- Drawer joints
- In electrical outlet wall plates and appliances
- Under loose wall paper and wall hangings
- At the junction where the wall and ceiling meet