2024’s Worst Cities for Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bug infestation extermination service man in gloves and safety glasses inspecting infected mattress

Where in the U.S. are bed bugs most likely to hitch a ride on your luggage or pre-loved furniture?

With Bed Bug Awareness Week starting June 2, Pest Gnome ranked 2024’s Worst Cities for Bed Bug Infestations. 

We compared the 500 biggest U.S. cities based on 3 categories. We looked at the number of accommodations, multi-unit residential buildings, and population density. We also considered access to exterminators, among 6 total metrics. 

Keep an eye out for bed bugs while traveling with help from our ranking below. To learn how we ranked the cities, see our methodology.

Contents

Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Top 5 Close Up

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our 5 cities with the biggest risk of bed bug infestations.

No. 1: New York | Overall Score: 95.75

Number of Used Furniture Stores: 77 | Rank: 1
Population Density: 28,182 | Rank: 1
Number of Accommodations: 934 | Rank: 2
Share of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings: 83.6% | Rank: 5
Average Monthly Google Searches for Bed Bug-Related Keywords Over Past Year: 105,510 | Rank: 1

Local Tips: 
Everything to Know About Bed Bugs in New York City
What to Do About Rats in New York City
Everything to Know About Termites in New York

Photo Credit: Roberto Vivancos / Pexels / Pexels License
No. 2: Los Angeles | Overall Score: 70.17

Number of Used Furniture Stores: 37 | Rank: 4
Population Density: 8,181 | Rank: 48
Number of Accommodations: 997 | Rank: 1
Share of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings: 57.5% | Rank: 42
Average Monthly Google Searches for Bed Bug-Related Keywords Over Past Year: 46,890 | Rank: 2

Local Tips:
Bed Bugs in California: Everything You Need to Know
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes in Los Angeles
Everything to Know About Termites in California

Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson | Pexels | Pexels License
No. 3: Houston | Overall Score: 62.55

Number of Used Furniture Stores: 54 | Rank: 2
Population Density: 3,570 | Rank: 220
Number of Accommodations: 811 | Rank: 3
Share of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings: 50.9% | Rank: 79
Average Monthly Google Searches for Bed Bug-Related Keywords Over Past Year: 31,770 | Rank: 3

Local Tips: 
Everything to Know About Bed Bugs in Texas
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes in Houston
Everything to Know About Termites in Texas

Photo Credit: CY / Unsplash / Unsplash License
No. 4: Chicago | Overall Score: 57.43

Number of Used Furniture Stores: 22 | Rank: 18
Population Density: 11,840 | Rank: 17
Number of Accommodations: 396 | Rank: 10
Share of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings: 70.4% | Rank: 16
Exterminators per 10,000 Homes: 1.2 | Rank: 24

Local Tips: 
Everything to Know About Bed Bugs in Chicago
Rodents in Illinois: How to Identify and Control Them
Everything to Know About Termites in Illinois 

Photo Credit: Chait Goli | Pexels | Pexels License
No. 5: San Francisco | Overall Score: 56.96

Number of Used Furniture Stores: 24 | Rank:14
Population Density: 17,443 | Rank: 6
Number of Accommodations: 423 | Rank: 8
Share of Multi-Unit Residential Buildings: 70.2% | Rank: 18
Exterminators per 10,000 Homes: 1.3 | Rank: 28

Local Tips:
Bed Bugs in California: Everything You Need to Know
How to Get Rid of Termites in San Francisco
When is Mosquito Season in California?

Photo Credit: Kehn Hermano / Pexels / Pexels License

The Upshot

Major metros like New York (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2) top the rankings, while leading the pack for most bed bug-related Google searches. Despite its lower urban density, Houston holds the No. 3 spot, owed significantly to high numbers of accommodations and used furniture stores. Notably, urban extensions like Miami Beach (No. 6) and Jersey City (No. 10), also stand out on the list.

Cities known for their bustling tourist activity are seeing a surge in bed bug reports. Las Vegas (No. 75), a high-traffic entertainment hub, ranks prominently, while Honnolulu’s (No. 30) picturesque resorts aren’t spared from recent events either. The Big Pineapple boasts a high number of accommodations and multi-unit residential buildings.  

In colder regions like Denver (No. 15), Boston (No. 7), and Buffalo (No. 50), the temperatures don’t stop the itchy pests. Most recently, Buffalo’s low number of exterminators, high population density, and substantial number of apartment complexes have put the Queen City in the headlines.

Smaller metros Fort Myers (No. 498), Edmond, Oklahoma (No. 499), and St. George, Utah (No. 500) — round out the bottom of the rankings. While these cities present lower population densities, Fort Myers stands out with a higher infestation risk, underscored by substantial numbers of multi-unit residences, used furniture stores, and hotel accommodations.

Ask The Experts

The excitement of vacationing can quickly turn to panic in the presence of bed bugs.

We turned to a panel of experts to learn what everyone should know about bed bugs before heading to the airport or simply stepping out into the public sphere. Read their insights below.

  1. What are your 3 best tips for travelers to check for and evade bed bugs?
  2. What should people do if they notice a bed bug has hitched a ride on their luggage?
  3. What are 3 misconceptions about bed bugs?
  4. Outside of the motel or hotel room, where should vacationers be on the lookout for bed bugs?
Dr. Aaron Ashbrook
Assistant Professor of Urban Extension Entomology
Dr. Andrew Mason Sutherland, BCE
Cooperative Extension Advisor – Urban Integrated Pest Management
Philip G. Koehler
Endowed Professor
Dr. Aaron Ashbrook
Assistant Professor of Urban Extension Entomology
Louisiana State University, Department of Entomology

1. What are your 3 best tips for travelers to check for and evade bed bugs?

My best tips for checking for and evading bed bugs are:

1. Know what the signs of bed bugs are as well as what the different life stages look like.

2. Conduct a visual inspection of the place you are staying, focusing on the bed, box spring, and bed frame. While a visual inspection is not foolproof, you will likely encounter them in nearby sleeping areas.

3. When conducting an inspection of the premises, be sure to keep your luggage in an area like the bathtub or shower, where bed bugs will likely not be able to climb. Then if you find bed bugs, the evasion strategy would be to report it to management and request a new room to stay in.

2. What should people do if they notice a bed bug has hitched a ride on their luggage?

Typically, I suggest the individual captures the bed bug and kills it in some way.

Then, they should inspect their luggage case to see if there are more bed bugs that may have ridden along and look for eggs as well. They can remove the bed bugs using an extra sticky lint roller or tweezers. Bugs or eggs can be put into plastic bags, then frozen, or placed into a cup with soapy water.

Next, I would suggest they launder the clothing that was brought with them on a high-heat setting.

Finally, they should inspect other items they have brought for bed bugs and control them using one of the above-mentioned methods. If someone has introduced a large amount of bed bugs, it may be best to seek professional assistance.

3. What are 3 misconceptions about bed bugs?

1. That they are only found on beds due to their name. Despite common belief, bed bugs will reside in many areas near host resting places, including carpet, floorboards, electrical outlets, curtains, couches, etc. So, they are not limited to beds alone.

2. That bed bugs need unsanitary conditions to be successful. While clutter and human possessions can complicate bed bug management, they are highly dependent on their hosts to supply them with resources, which is a blood meal.

3. That bed bugs cannot be seen with the unaided eye. Although small, all bed bug life stages can be seen without a microscope.

4. Outside of the motel or hotel room, where should vacationers be on the lookout for bed bugs?

Bed bugs will usually be in areas where people spend a fair amount of time sitting or sleeping.

Some other areas where people could encounter bed bugs are public transportation systems, movie theaters, or office buildings.

Another spot where bed bugs could be found are poultry houses as they are also a pest of chickens which are used for both meat or egg production.

Dr. Andrew Mason Sutherland, BCE
Cooperative Extension Advisor – Urban Integrated Pest Management
University of California (UC IPM, UC ANR), San Francisco Bay Area

1. What are your 3 best tips for travelers to check for and evade bed bugs?

1. Know how to recognize bed bugs and their signs.

2. Perform a quick (5-minute) inspection of every new lodging or rental environment before settling in and unpacking.

3. When back at home, store luggage, travel backpacks, and other travel-related personal belongings far away from sleeping and resting locations.

2. What should people do if they notice a bed bug has hitched a ride on their luggage?

Kill it (crush it with your fingers) or physically remove it (vacuum, lint roller, adhesive tape).

Then thoroughly inspect the luggage for additional bugs or eggs.

3. What are 3 misconceptions about bed bugs?

1. Bed bugs are microscopic or invisible to the unaided eye (FALSE).

2. Bed bugs are only found on beds (FALSE).

3. Bed bugs are signs of poor sanitation and poverty (FALSE).

4. Outside of the motel or hotel room, where should vacationers be on the lookout for bed bugs?

Any place where people sleep or rest. Areas frequented by more people or with high turnover rates have higher risks of bed bug introduction than areas with few people or low turnover.

In addition to traditional lodging environments, consider short-term rental properties (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.).

Bed bugs may also be introduced to public transit facilities, public waiting rooms and lounge areas, and libraries, though they typically do not establish breeding populations in these locations.

Philip G. Koehler
Endowed Professor
University of Florida, UF/IFAS Department of Entomology and Nematology

1. What are your 3 best tips for travelers to check for and evade bed bugs?

1. Thoroughly inspect the bed and furniture wherever you stay during travels.

2. When returning home from trips, do not take luggage to bedrooms. Remove clothing from luggage in the laundry room. Launder and put clothing in the dryer. The soap and heat will kill hidden bed bugs.

3. When checking into a hotel room, cruise ship, or Airbnb, inspect the bed and bedding for bed bugs. Also look in other locations, particularly the furniture where luggage would be placed and opened.

2. What should people do if they notice a bed bug has hitched a ride on their luggage?

1. If a bed bug is found on luggage, seal the luggage in a plastic garbage bag until potentially infested clothing can be removed, laundered, and dried in a hot dryer.

2. Empty luggage can remain sealed in a plastic garbage bag or plastic tub. A Nuvan (dichlorvos) strip can be placed in the container with the luggage for 24 hours to 7 days to kill all eggs, nymphs, and adult bed bugs.

3. What are 3 misconceptions about bed bugs?

1. Myth: Bed bugs are always associated with beds. Actually, bed bugs are not only found in beds. They can be found anywhere in an infested room.

2. Myth: Bed bugs are easily seen because of their size and color. Actually, bed bugs are not always easily seen. Adult bed bugs are almost ¼ inch long and reddish brown in color. The first stages are tan, tiny, and easily overlooked.

3. Myth: Bed bugs only feed on people. Actually, bed bugs do not only feed on people. They can feed on birds, pets, and other animals.

4. Outside of the motel or hotel room, where should vacationers be on the lookout for bed bugs?

Bed bugs can be found just about anywhere. They can survive in planes, taxis, and Uber or Lyft vehicles. Seats of movie theaters and restaurants can have bed bugs. They can also be found on cruise ships.

Check the clothing you are wearing for bed bugs when leaving vehicles or places where you sit for periods of time, like restaurants and movie theaters.

Behind the Ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Worst Cities for Bed Bug Infestations. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into 3 categories: Infestation Risk, Pest Control, and Urban Density. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.

For each of the 500 biggest U.S. cities, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table. 

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each city to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A city’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Highest Risk” (No. 1) and the lowest “Lowest Risk” (No. 500). Note: The “Lowest Risk” among individual factors may not be No. 500 due to ties.

Sources: Yelp, The Real Yellow Pages, Google Ads, Tripadvisor, and U.S. Census Bureau. 

Final Thoughts: Bed Bug Vigilance

Travel is expected to soar this summer, even as bed bugs have been increasingly troubling vacationers worldwide since their noticeable resurgence last October. 

Bed bug outbreaks are hard to control and can occur in hotel accommodations and shared living spaces like apartments and retirement homes. Some local governments are trying to diminish the spread by implementing legal restrictions, such as requiring used mattresses to be wrapped in plastic before disposal.

Prevent unwanted guests from crashing your travel plans and learn how to avoid bed bugs while visiting a hotel with help from our tips below.

Budget time and money for a professional bed bug treatment.

What is Pest Gnome?

Pest Gnome — part of the Home Gnome family of home service sites — puts local pest control experts at your fingertips. We connect you to the best local pros to get the job done quickly.

Media Resources

  • With cities like Fort Myers (No. 498), West Palm Beach (No. 491), Boca Raton (No. 479), and Cape Coral (No. 476), Florida boasts some of the highest numbers of exterminators per 10,000 people. 
  • Nashville (No. 28) and Oklahoma City (No. 98) exhibit some of the lowest population densities, however, both cities attract tourists, providing high numbers of accommodations
  • Out of the top 25 cities, Paterson, NJ (No. 21) enjoys the lowest infestation risk, with low numbers of accommodations. 
  • Bed bugs can turn up anywhere – homes, schools, hotels (Las Vegas), airport gates (Hawaii), and a theater in Indianapolis when I lived there. As Paris gears up to host the Olympics this summer, the City of Light is hoping to wipe out any remaining bed bug problems from last summer’s epic infestation before athletes and tourists arrive.

High-resolution images of cities

Main Photo Credit: Michael O’Keene / Adobe Stock / License

Editorial Contributors

  • Sav Maive

    Sav Maive

    Author

    Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.

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  • Kimberly Magerl

    Kimberly Magerl

    Editor

    Kimberly Magerl is a writer and data analyst specializing in home improvement, DIY, roofing, and solar technologies. She enjoys growing vegetables in her garden, getting outdoors, and transforming her space with DIY projects. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.

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