Bed Bug Bites

WASHINGTON — Though Washington’s population has grown by more than 100,000 people in the past decade, it’s not clear how many bedbugs have come to town in that time.

Whatever the number, it was enough for the District of Columbia to bump Baltimore from the top spot in a survey of the buggiest cities.

Each year, pest control company Orkin ranks the “Top 50 Bedbug Cities” based on treatment data. After Baltimore topped the list for three years in a row, Washington took the prize from Charm City after Orkin declared that it had performed more bedbug treatments in Washington — from Dec. 1, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2019 — than anywhere else.

Baltimore still finished strong at No. 2, followed by Chicago, Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio, with New York coming in at No. 6. Virginia’s Norfolk and Richmond were listed at No. 15 and No. 21, respectively.

Bedbugs are up to 5 millimeters in length, Orkin says, and red to dark brown in color.

They catch rides on luggage and in purses before emerging at night to take a bite from sleeping humans.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each female can lay up to three eggs per day and 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime of about six to 12 months.

“While bedbugs have not been found to transmit any diseases to humans, they can be an elusive threat to households,” said Chelle Hartzer, an Orkin entomologist. “They are excellent hitchhikers, and they reproduce quickly which make it nearly impossible to prevent bedbugs. Sanitation has nothing to do with where you’ll find them.”

Those who fear bedbug infestations should search for them in mattresses and behind baseboards during daylight hours, eliminate clutter and inspect secondhand furniture before bringing it inside, Orkin says.

When traveling, luggage should be stored elevated, away from beds and walls. Clothes should be dried in a dryer upon return.

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