They’re back. America’s least favorite roommates are moving in at rates previously unheard of. The roommates in question are bed bugs – one of the nation’s most hardy and enduring pests, and source of endless trouble for hotel operators, apartment tenants, and homeowners. Texans are reporting bed bugs at greater numbers than ever before, with exterminators struggling to cope with the quantity.

But when, and more importantly, how did the bugs make it to Texas? Reports of bed bugs in cities such as New York have been common for the last six months, with a number of retail outlets forced to close and an even greater number of residential complexes battling the bugs for months at a time. The annoyance even spread to neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, annoying residents.

At the same time, the bugs have been a common sight on the opposite seaboard. Residents of San Francisco have been forced to share their mattresses with the unwanted guests for months, as the bugs have taken hold of numerous inner-city residential complexes due to poor fumigation. With the ‘best’ chemicals now outlawed, the problem appears to be getting worse.

Experts claim that the bugs have entered Texas through tourists, many of whom inadvertently slept in a bed infested with the creatures. Infested mattresses can often contain millions of the micro-bug pests, leading to hotel and apartment dwellers maintaining a small population of the nasty creatures in their clothing without even knowing it. The bugs can then ‘leap’ from one person to another.

How are bed bugs spreading through Texas?

We now know how the pests got into Texas – a state that hasn’t seen a major outbreak of bed bugs in almost fifty years. But how are they spreading through Texas? The state maintains a climate that the bugs will undoubtedly find appealing, with high humidity and consistently warm temperatures. The height of winter is unlikely to eliminate the pests, as they’re almost completely resistant to cold.

But despite the state’s climate, there’s little to suggest that they’re able to spread through Texan beds – and couches – abnormally quickly. Pest control experts have claimed that the bugs are unaffected by warmth, humidity, and extreme cold, save for a few ultra-high heat weaknesses. Save for a truly lethal dose of heat, environmental factors rarely convince the bugs to move on.

It makes sense, then, that the bugs are spreading through Texas in the luggage and clothing of those that have slept in an infested bed. Hotel rooms are major sources of the bugs, with even prestigious addresses likely to house the pests. Shared apartments, temporary holiday rentals, and other houses that are left uncleaned are also sources of the bugs, which nestle into bedsheets and mattresses.

Minimize the risk of spreading bed bugs throughout Texas by carefully checking hotel beds before going to sleep. A recent Statesman article highlighted the importance of examining any hotel rooms before staying. The traveler featured in the article recommended stripping the sheets from a bed and examining the crevices of the mattress, particularly those around the bed’s headboard.

Which major cities are most at risk for bed bug infestation?

Texas has fared relatively well when it comes to bed bug reports. While New York City leads the nation in bed bug complaints and fumigation requests, most of Texas’s major cities fall fairly far behind in the rankings. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seattle are all home to more bed bug outbreaks than Dallas-Fort Worth, despite some of the cities in question housing less people.

That said, there are bed bugs in Texas, particularly in the state’s more dense and populous centers. A report from My Fox Austin has shown the amount of residential buildings in the area that are homes for bed bugs. Other news outlets in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio have reported on the bugs being present in their cities, although numbers tend to be fairly modest and outbreaks rare.

West Texas has been largely unaffected by the pests, owing to its relative geographic isolation and limited number of densely packed residential buildings. The bugs are likely to live in commercial buildings throughout the state, however, making it important for office workers and professionals to examine their clothing, furniture, and any covered material goods regularly to prevent spreading.

Bed bugs have been gone for years. Why are they back?

The most compelling argument for the bugs’ return is that the chemicals used as pest preventatives are no longer as powerful or effective as they were just one decade ago. Bed bugs were eradicated in the United States following World War II – a milestone that passed over sixty years ago. Due to the recent ban of DDT pest preventatives, the bugs are returning in record numbers.

Outbreaks are most obvious in urban centers, particularly cities that are packed densely with houses and other high-density projects. New York’s Manhattan Island is considered the nation’s bug capital, with densely packed residential buildings housing billions of the annoying pests. Luckily, Texas has yet to see an outbreak on the same scale, as the state’s geographic isolation and low density helps.

Insufficient cleaning has also lead to the bugs’ return. While bed bugs don’t feed on grit or uneaten food, they do thrive in environments that are packed with cotton and other material surfaces. While cleaning goes some way to prevent them from taking hold of a home, any area that provides cracks, folded clothing, and other comfortable spots has the potential to become infested with the bugs.

Bed bugs in the Dallas / Fort Worth area

When extermination company Terminix released its worst bedbug cities list, most Texans were both surprised and relieved to learn that none of their major population centers featured. Cities that bring international travelers in droves topped the list, with New York and Philadelphia taking the top two spots. Strangely, however, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was nowhere to be seen in the study’s Top 15.

For residents, that was most certainly a good thing. Outbreaks have been rare in Dallas, although a few isolated incidents have occurred over the past five years. While bed bug call outs have increased in the city and metropolitan area, the amount of infestations is very low when compared to cities in the country’s Northeast and major population centers on the West Coast.

The few infestations that occur are typically treated quickly, with Dallas’s pest control businesses able to respond to calls promptly and provide effective eradication treatments. As the city is home to thousands of other bug strains – cockroaches and mosquitos the most popular – it offers a large amount of choice when it comes to pest control businesses and extermination companies.

Bed bugs in Houston

If Texas has a bed bug center, it’s Houston. The business center is home to millions of people from across the nation, many of whom have taken up residence in its relatively dense inner-city housing buildings. While the bugs are, once again, far from the prevalence level seen in New York City and San Francisco, they’re still a problem for city residents and hotel staff within Houston.

A recent blog post from the Houston Press has highlighted the spread of bugs throughout the city and its surrounding areas. The blog post – which is closer to an in-depth preventative guide than a simple opinion piece – brings attention to the numerous new methods which pest control experts use to combat the bugs. From excess heat to freeze-powered solutions, it’s all there.

Some have pointed to the city’s business travel industry as a reason for the spread of bed bugs, with energy industry employees frequently using Houston as a travel hub for other points in Texas. While the bugs are becoming a nuisance for suburban housing communities (as this article explains), their presence is mostly limited to dense accommodation and other shared residential buildings.

Bed bugs in San Antonio

Reports of bed bug infestations in San Antonio have increased exponentially in the last two years. A single case in 2007 has turned into hundreds during 2010, with homeowners and apartment dwellers increasingly concerned about the bugs. They’re also increasingly vigilant about removing the pests from their properties – exterminators in the city have been called to more cases than ever before.

A recent case involving bed bugs at the Home Gate Inn Hotel resulted in health department action and a swift cleaning session from the hotel’s management team. The couple that stayed at the room have incurred close to ten thousand dollars worth of expenses trying to fight the bugs, removing and replacing their old furniture and repeatedly cleaning their clothes and travel luggage.

However, while shocking cases are becoming a more regular occurrence, the bugs are still fairly rare in San Antonio. Exterminators have suggested that residents take preventative measures against the bugs rather than trying to right them after being spotted in a residence. Check hotel beds before sleeping, view cracks and crevices, and ensure you do not stay in an infested hotel.

Bed bugs in Austin

Texas’s political and cultural capital appears to be running into the same bed bug problems seen in other cities. The insects have been sighted in Austin apartment complexes and residential towers, a local news report has claimed. While the bugs are fairly rare in the city itself, they’re likely to move from one host to another on public transport and through shared clothes and furniture.

Reports have been fairly slow in the city, although they are occurring at a higher rate than in other years. Like many other parts of the United States, Austin has experienced a surge in the prevalence of bed bugs and other nighttime annoyances. Heat treatments are becoming more common for city residents, as traditional pest control sprays rarely affect the bugs due to their hardy nature.

As with other cities, local media outlets have provided information that could help residents battling the annoying pests. This guide and writeup contains a few quick tips for limiting the bugs’ ability to spread throughout your home. While they remain relatively rare in Austin, the city’s travel-friendly reputation may cause them to spread further via hotels, hostels, and other tourist accommodation.

Recent reported outbreaks, and their economic impact

Widespread outbreaks have not affected Texas’s major cities and population centers, nor have they had any major effect on the state’s economy. While New York City and other metro areas chose to allocate funds and manpower to eliminate the bugs, the small amount of infestations in Texas has made the important of a task force or special health division fairly debatable.

That said, individual cases can and do have an effect on the commercial properties that house the bugs. One motel in Luddock has reported a significant downturn in business following reports of bed bugs in hotel beds and furniture. The hotel has since sprayed its rooms and removed the bugs, though the negative word of mouth and other rumors have left it relatively low on customers.

I think I have bed bugs. What should I do?

It’s important to take immediate action if you do have bed bugs. The first, and most important, step is to ensure that you have an infestation. Check creases in your mattress, areas around electric plugs and sockets, and furniture for the bugs. Their small form and dark brown appearance makes them a tough nuisance to spot, although trains of black feces and discarded shells are a common giveaway.

Secondly, call a professional pest control expert in your area. The bugs are highly resistant to sprays and other consumer solutions. They can’t be eradicated like a mosquito or other common pests, only with the resources and skills that a professional exterminator can offer. Complete removal can often require that you discard your clothes, remove your mattress, and even fumigate your residence.