Bedbugs in Philly: Last year's problem?

Posted: January 31, 2013


Philly is accustomed to appearing on lists it would prefer not to be on, including the June 2012 Terminix report that turned the city's mattresses upside down. An annual list by the pest-control company named Philadelphia the No. 1 most bedbug-infested city in the country.

But this month, competitor Orkin released its annual Top 50 Bedbug Cities report - and Philly didn't crack the list.

Maybe Philadelphia has quickly gotten rid of bedbugs?

Not so fast.

Ron Harrison, Orkin's director of technical services, said an uptick in other regions is likely the reason. The rate of extermination services in the city, he said, appears to be on par with past years'.

But why the disparity between the two companies' rankings? Methodology may be the answer.

Terminix compiles its list by evaluating service calls by customers and confirmed cases from its 300 branches nationwide, a representative said. Meanwhile, Harrison said, Orkin ranks based on services provided.

In any case, suggests Jon Gelhaus, curator of entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, rankings aren't necessarily all they're cracked up to be.

"They kind of grab your eye . . . but I don't know what's behind them," Gelhaus said.

Regardless, he said, it's important to be vigilant about bedbugs.

"Even if Philadelphia isn't so-called Number 1, it's still important to be aware," Gelhaus said.

Plus, the numbers keep changing. Before landing atop Terminix's list, Philly ranked No. 5 on the Top 15 in 2011 and No. 2 in 2010.

By Orkin's account, the city was ranked No. 20 in 2012 and No. 9 in 2011. (The data were derived from the previous years in both cases.)

Ultimately, Harrison said, the take-home lesson is that bedbugs aren't limited to one region.

"Our ultimate goal is to [inform] the general public that bedbugs are pervasive everywhere," he said.

On Twitter: @AJFichera

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