While the American press has largely focused on beg bug outbreaks along the Eastern Seaboard, the bugs remain an annoyance for residents of less temperate states such as California and Florida. Due to its large economy, the state’s significant population, and the presence of several of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, California is a major source of bed bug problems in the USA.
The Golden State is home to three of the country’s largest city areas – the Los Angeles Area, the San Diego Area, and the San Francisco Bay Area. With high population densities and a significant dense real estate presence, the cities can be breeding grounds for insects, household pests, and annoyances such as bed bugs, mosquitoes, and small rats and rodents.
It’s a problem that isn’t helped by the state’s fairly warm temperature. South California is one of the nation’s high-risk zones for pest development, owing to its comfortable year-round temperature and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The state’s northern regions are also at risk, although low levels of humidity and a lack of suitable natural space has prevented bed bugs from becoming an issue.
But despite its pest-friendly climate and high-density housing presence, California’s major cities have yet to experience a bed bug outbreak on the scale of those seen in New York City. While the pests are an issue in dense residential communities, the state’s relative lack of high-rise buildings and ultra-dense housing has made the spread of such
How are bed bugs spreading throughout California?
Due to its variable climate, California is home to two major species of bed bug – the more common Cimex lectularius and the warmth-seeking Cimex hemipterus. Both strains are attracted to the warm environments offered in the state, with major apartment buildings and city homes offering a buffet of sites for feeding, living, and comfortable reproduction.
The nation’s bed bug capital – New York City – has experienced significant spreads of bed bugs from one major housing building to another. Due to California’s less dense city spaces, the bugs tend to spread through shared clothing and on public transportation. In dense areas such as inner San Francisco, the bugs can easily spread due to close proximity residential and office buildings.
Hotels, particularly low-end hotels with a less dedicated cleaning presence, are major sources of the bugs. Guests can ‘catch’ the bugs by sleeping in an unclean bed, which can often house millions of the irritating mites at once. Hotels housing bed bug infestations are required by law in most parts of California to alert authorities and use qualified extermination services, although not all do.
How can you prevent the spread of bed bugs in California? Start by researching any potential hotels and accommodation options online before making a booking. Hotels that fail to clean their rooms of bed bugs and other mites often receive negative feedback online. If you run into one, take note of it and search for an alternative place to stay while on vacation or a short weekend break.
When using public transport, be aware that the bugs can ‘leap’ from one target to another. The most frequent cause for infestation is through transfer from dirty clothes to furniture. If your clothes are housing bed bugs and other mites, ensure that they are thoroughly washed before bringing them in contact with any of your home’s objects, particularly fabric and furniture.
Finally, regular cleaning and bug spraying will help prevent the mites from gaining entry to your residence. While California is home to less dense residential buildings than other states, it remains important to keep your home’s major infestation zones clean. Check plug sockets, warm areas that lack ventilation, and air conditioning machines for mites – they could be housing bed bugs.
Which major centers are most at risk for bed bug infestation?
The vast majority of bed bug infestation cases are reported in Los Angeles – the state’s largest city and its most dense metropolitan area. Houses and apartment blocks within Los Angeles County are frequent sites of outbreaks, although they are also served by numerous pest control services. Other counties tend to have fewer reported outbreaks, although they still occur.
Other major population centers such as San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose also have fairly high presences of the pests. Outbreaks have become more common over the past five years – a phenomenon that many people have attributed to the increase in purchases of used goods such as mattresses through eBay, Craigslist, and other online trading services.
California’s major centers have had few bed bug outbreaks over the past sixty years, although the annoying blood-suckers appear to be making a comeback. As the majority of infestations are found within city areas, the use of pesticides and high-power chemicals is impossible. Small towns in the state’s largely arid country are at a lower risk, due to their dryer climate and lower density.
Does California’s unique climate hurt or help bed bugs?
California’s warm climate appears to have a minor impact on the pests – with year-round warmth, it is a particularly alluring state for the bugs. However, most research has indicated that bed bugs can survive in almost any temperature range, giving little credence to the theory that California’s is one of several states ‘destined’ to house the annoyances forever.
However, the state’s position as a tourist hotspot may contribute to the spread of bed bugs. A recent article by Monsters and Critics has pointed to Los Angeles’ large tourism industry as a cause for the spread of such creatures. The easiest way to avoid the bugs is to check hotels before booking rooms online – large buildings infested with bed bugs are typically reported on by local media.
Bed bugs in the Greater Los Angeles Area
A recent report in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune claims that bed bugs are back in Los Angeles. An annoyance once eliminated in the early 1950s, the bugs have taken hold of some of the city’s most prestigious hotels and private residences. The surge in reports has placed Los Angeles in the second place for the most reports in the country, following pest control leader New York City.
The paper’s profiled company responded to just 35 calls related to the bugs in 2004. This year, they expect up to 31,000 calls related to bed bugs and residential outbreaks. Council members claim that the increase in bed bug infestations is related to the country’s ban on high-power chemicals such as DDT – one of several anti-pest sprays used in the 20th century to eradicate bugs and cockroaches.
The pesticides used today, particularly in California’s city areas, simply aren’t powerful enough to completely eradicate the bugs. Chemical control laws and other guidelines have made it difficult for pest control companies to eliminate the bugs in a short period of time, with most homeowners and apartment dwellers forced to use long-term removal sprays to fight the unwanted roommates.
Another release from NBC Los Angeles consults Dr. Jerome Goddard, who claims that the bugs have reappeared in the city due to international travel and the limited effects of chemicals. Used furniture remains a major source of the bugs, with student apartments and shared houses typically reporting outbreaks more frequently than other residential areas.
Bed bugs in San Diego Metropolitan Area
San Diego’s city government has released a basic information sheet on bed bugs, explaining their presence in the city and reassuring residents that they are a fairly rare occurrence. While the city’s bed bug presence is smaller than that found in Los Angeles or other large American cities, they are an issue. Fox 5 San Diego reports that bed bug calls have increased over seventy percent this year.
City regulations state that the owner of a dwelling is responsible for the cost of removing bed bugs from apartments, residential homes, and commercial buildings. While infestations tend to spread within a building, there are cases of isolated bed bug outbreaks. The California Landlord Book is one of several resources available to renters dealing with a bed bug infestation.
San Diego, like Los Angeles to the north, is consistently warm throughout the year. While this is a preferential condition for the pests, it is not thought of as a major reason for their presence. Expert exterminators in San Diego have blamed the increase in cases on the lack of high-power chemicals available today. Many of the all-purpose pest control solutions do not effectively kill bed bugs.
Bed bugs in the San Francisco Bay Area
Clean, green San Francisco may not seem like a center for bed bug activity. The city is California’s fourth-biggest, falling behind Los Angeles, San Diego, and nearby San Jose. However, while local authorities have done their best to eliminate the bugs from city neighborhoods, bed bugs remain a major annoyance for residents in San Francisco’s dense and highly populated inner city areas.
The US National Pest Management Association recently named San Francisco as one of the worst cities in the country for bed bug infestations, ranking alongside New York City and major locations in Texas and Washington. The problem has been compounded by the impact of chemicals on pets – something the San Francisco Chronicle hinted at in the recent article.
However, the city appears to be tackling its bed bug problem effectively. Landlord education is one of several measures being implemented to ensure that the problem is solved at its root, along with a series of public programs designed to help tenants locate and report the bugs. San Francisco is one of several large cities battling the bugs, and it appears to be doing fairly well in its fight.
Still, the city’s reputation as a hot spot of bed bug activity has put many residents off recommending its hotels. Community website Bedbug Registry was started and is regularly maintained by Maciej Ceglowski – a resident of the state who first found bed bugs in a central San Francisco hotel. The website catalogs bed bug activity throughout the country, including California’s major cities.
Recent outbreaks, press coverage, and their economic impact
While California is considered a problem state for the pests, they have not has such a large impact on its economy as they have in New York. Los Angeles – one of the most frequently ‘infested’ areas – has managed to avoid the negative stigma attached to New York City. Most hotels are aware that the bugs could become a major problem, and almost all have taken steps to prevent their presence.
The state’s bed bug ‘capital’ is San Francisco, although a series of government measures have made the pests a relatively minor issue on the national level. Landlords are educated as to the presence of bed bugs, and incentives for cleaning and fumigation are available. The city’s hotel industry isn’t in great shape, although that can be attributed primarily to the ongoing financial crisis.
No major commercial outbreaks have been reported, although numerous large-scale outbreaks in housing communities have occurred. The city of San Francisco now has its own $63,000 bed bug ‘fund’ – a resource that is likely to provide subsidized laundry and fumigation services to residents that can’t afford to pay independently. All in all, the state’s approach to bed bugs is quite effective.
Despite its second-place ranking on the nation’s list of ‘bed bug centers’, California appears to have few of the problems found in areas like New York City. The bugs are more easily eliminated due to the lower population density, while retail buildings have reported significantly less problems than those in New York – where several large clothing outlets have been forced to temporarily close.
Our advice? Stay vigilant, remember that the bugs are out there, and check bedding and material furniture before going to sleep in a hotel. Bed bugs are able to penetrate furniture in any type of dwelling, reinforcing the importance of checking before sleep. While California’s bed bug issues aren’t as troubling as those in New York, they have the potential to grow more severe this year.