What was once a minor annoyance is quickly turning into a nationwide problem. Bed bugs are back in the USA, and they’re becoming more difficult to eradicate every day. Ohio appears to be a source for the bugs, with numerous hotels and private residences within the state suffering from outbreaks, repeated infestations, and the long-term stigma of being associated with the nasty pests. The bugs were largely eradicated in the United States following World War II, with most towns and cities in Ohio reporting little more than ten infestations annually. But after high-power sprays were outlawed earlier this century, the bugs have started coming back in massive numbers. Outbreaks in cities such as New York and San Francisco are becoming commonplace, as are health scares.

Thankfully, the bugs aren’t a major health risk, nor are they a particularly painful experience. That said, they are an incredible annoyance and one of the most excruciatingly difficult pests to remove from your home. A single stay in an infested bed is enough to transfer the bugs to your hair, to your suitcase, and eventually into your own bedsheets, mattress, and comforter. Not only that the bugs multiply and spread once they find a home. Most residents with experience of infestations can speak of their scale once the bed bugs have arrived in a home, they can spread to different rooms, floors, and areas rapidly. It’s not uncommon to find bed bugs throughout a home in electrical sockets, desks and other wooden furniture, and even in curtains and lampshades.

Ohio is, quite unfortunately, one of the hardest hit states in the nation. Currently, the US’s bed bug infestation leader is New York City, where the bugs have rapidly multiplied and taken residence in some of the city’s most prestigious and expensive addresses. Other outbreak zones include the city of San Francisco, where this infestation was spotted in a major inner city hotel chain. We’ve prepared this guide to alert Ohio residents of the dangers presented by bed bugs, as well as the scale of their infestations. Included is information on removing the parasites from your home, documentation of major outbreaks, and specific information on outbreak zones in your city.

How are bed bugs spreading through Ohio?

Ohio’s relatively central position has made the state a popular location for travelers, particularly those traveling by road from one side of the country to another. This long-distance driver demand has also made the state a center for short-term accommodation, particularly motor hotels that can thrive on single-night visitors and traveling guests. Pest control experts have pointed to hotels as a leading source of bed bugs, claiming that the bugs can easily spread from guests’ luggage. International visitors are a major source of the insects, with bed bugs clinging onto their luggage in East Asia and Eastern Europe, and quickly traveling across the Atlantic to our shores.

Most cases are inconsequential, although some end up in rapid outbreaks. This viral spread has put two industries in ‘bed bug lockdown’ mode, the travel industry and the hotel and short-term accommodation industry. The bugs typically spread from people’s luggage and clothing onto hotel bedsheets, where they take up residence in mattresses and pillow contents. One hotel can host millions of the bugs, with eggs hatching rapidly and populations soon multiplying. Another major source of the bugs is Ohio’s advanced transportation network.

Before international visitors can reach hotels, many spend their journeys aboard state buses, regional trains, or railway services within cities. With infested bags and equally bug-ridden clothes, it’s a simple journey for the bugs to crawl onto seating surfaces, automobile structure, and even overhead storage bins. Finally, imported products can occasionally bring the bugs into the USA. Shipments of imported clothes and other fabric-based items have been found to contain the bugs, leading to the closure of several prestigious fashion retail outlets and the fumigation of many others. The majority of goods housing the bugs are imported from Europe and Asia, where the bugs are a minor annoyance.

Should transportation services and hotels be avoided?

No. While hotels, buses, and trains are major sources of the bugs, avoiding them entirely is unlikely to give you any protective advantage. Ohio’s transit systems are regarded as free of the pests, with a small amount of isolated cases appearing each year. Such cases are typically acted on rapidly using commercial spray teams and professional exterminators. However, problem cases do slip through the cracks. Bed bugs have been found in several hotels in the state, including high-end chains and luxury boutiques. Unlike ticks and roaches, the bugs aren’t attracted to dirty rooms or messy settings, they’re equally at home in a luxury hotel room as they are in a low-end hostel. Cleanliness, paradoxically, may even help the bugs reach the mattress. That said, there are numerous ways to avoid the bugs when staying in a hotel room or riding on the state’s extensive public transportation system. We’ve detailed several in the following page sections, including some simple tips that can be applied to any hotel room or temporary accommodation area.

Which cities are most at risk of bed bug infestation? There are several reasons for the spread of bed bugs, with international travel the most obvious, and also the most devastating. With that in mind, it’s Ohio’s cosmopolitan traveler-friendly cities that are likely to house the bugs. Cities such as Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati each contain extensive tourist attractions and travel areas, making them major centers for bed bug infestations. Smaller centers are also likely to attract the bugs. Population density is a fairly reliable metric for calculating the bugs’ ability to travel between houses and cities that are dense are more likely to see the bugs moving from one room to another. In fact, it’s prestigious and expensive Manhattan that’s fallen victim to the bugs the most, primarily due to its building density and compact residences. That means that any city, particularly those with greater housing density, could be at risk.

We have outlined Ohio’s major centers below and addresses specific outbreaks, but don’t take exclusion as a guarantee of cleanliness. All cities, towns, and residences are at risk of housing the bugs, and while size is certainly a factor for the bugs’ prevalence, lack of size is not a guarantee that they’re absent.

What bed bug treatments are available for Ohio residents?

Due to Ohio’s high population and recent series of bed bug outbreaks, a number of different control options are available. Common pesticides tend to be ineffective against the bugs, with chemicals as likely to affect residents as they are to hurt the bugs. Repeated spraying of mattresses and furniture is likely to eliminate the bugs, although several sessions are required for full elimination. Alternatively, heat-based control treatments are becoming more common. Some exterminators now offer a ‘heat blast’ treatment wherein rapid hot air is pumped into a home. As the bugs are unable to cope with high temperatures, they will die off as the ambient temperature of the home’s furnishings increases. Eggs and larvae are also killed, ensuring that the bugs are completely eliminated.

What steps can homeowners take to prevent or eliminate bed bugs?

Bed bugs spread rapidly, and preventative action is always more effective than action taken after the fact. When staying in Ohio hotels, guests should ensure that their luggage is isolated from any hotel furniture. One common trick involves placing your suitcases and extra bags in the hotel’s bathtub, as the nook-and-cranny-loving bugs are unlikely reside in it. More than anything, keep bags isolated. Secondly, guests should check hotel sheets and bedding for the bugs before going to sleep. Duvets and mattresses are the most frequent sites for infestations, with each capable of housing thousands of the bugs at a single time. Check over mattress seams for black trails and small bugs, and ensure that you wash your hands, hair, and clothing thoroughly if you stumble across an infestation.

Finally, removing mess from your home can help keep the bugs from spreading. While bed bugs are not drawn to messy environments, clothes that are strewn upon the floor represent an ideal place for the bugs to live. Messy duvets and comforters are particularly troublesome places, as bed bugs can use them to climb upwards onto pillows, mattresses, and further afield into furniture and storage.

Bed bugs in the Columbus Area

Bed bugs are becoming a growing problem in the Columbus area, with hundreds of private cases emerging in 2010. Pest control experts have stated that the number of infestations is increasing on a monthly basis, both as the bugs spread further and as homeowners gain awareness of infestations in the city. Residents have formed the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force in order to conglomerate and share information about the bugs. The group aims to influence policy and legislative decisions in the state to ensure that the bugs are eventually eliminated from homes and commercial buildings. Hotels are still thought of as the major source in the city, along with several problematic apartment buildings.

Bed bugs in the Cincinnati Area

Cincinnati has experienced bed bug outbreaks for the past ten years, with cases escalating rapidly over the past five. The bugs have become such a major problem that the city formed the Bedbug Remediation Commission in 2007 with aims of combating their expansion. So far, efforts have helped remove the bed bugs from problem areas, although new outbreaks continue to appear. Businesses have appealed to state and local government for an exclusion to the recent poison bans, claiming that the use of high-power chemicals could eradicate the bugs. Their requests have, for the moment, been turned down, giving many residents no option but to use local pest control businesses to remove the bugs from their homes. Treatment options are easily available, albeit quite costly.

Bed bugs in the Cleveland Area

Numerous high-profile outbreaks have occurred in Cleveland, including a series of infestations at a local apartment complex for senior citizens. The bugs have reappeared in several problematic hotels and commercial buildings, even after pest control experts have taken measures to ensure that they’re not an issue. Building operators have blamed the return on unclean clothing, which can house bugs. A repeat infestation at the CMHA apartment building has worried exterminators, many of whom are forced to work with less effective chemicals than in previous years. While the ban on chemicals has obvious health benefits, many residents in the building believe that they may represent a worthwhile removal option, particularly as apartment tenants take up sleeping in plastic bug-proof sheets.

Bed bugs in the Dayton Area
Infestations have become fairly commonplace in Dayton. A local school was forced to deal with an outbreak just over one year ago, with small recurring infestations annoying parents and students. A health department official has stated that the school may require long-term extermination efforts, as the bugs have a tendency to nest fairly far from the spots at which they are commonly spotted. Outbreaks have become more common over the past three years, as the Dayton Daily News reported in 2008. Used furniture and hotel bedding are the most common documented sources of the pests, a news report claims. Residents of Dayton are advised not to purchase used couches or mattresses, as the items could house colonies of thousands of the ultra-resistant pests.

Recent outbreaks, media coverage, and its economic impact

Most outbreaks have occurred on a city-wide level and statewide outbreaks are rare. However, Ohio is listed as one of the country’s worst states for bed bugs and residents are growing more aware of the problems on a daily basis. With several major hotel chains forced to temporarily close, it’s the local travel lodging industry that’s felt the financial impact of the bugs the most. Landlords and homeowners are also in arms about the bugs, as they can cause severe damage to a property’s value when their presence is publicly reported. The cost of removing the bugs can reach into the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for major residential complexes, costing some owners an expense that certainly isn’t prepared for.