"If I learned anything from this shithole life experience, it's that Denver does not know how to handle its bed bug problem."

Bed bugs have been a growing problem in the US over the past few decades. Increased international travel and lack of immediate treatment has led to an epidemic across the country. As proof of this, Terminix just released its 6th annual ranking of bed bug-infested cities — Denver surprisingly ranking ahead of New York City, as the Mile High came in at number 11, just behind dirty San Francisco.

Here are the top 15 bed bug cities in the United States:

  1. Detroit, Mich. (4)
  2. Philadelphia, Pa. (1)
  3. Cleveland-Akron, Ohio (15)
  4. Los Angeles, Calif. (14)
  5. Dayton, Ohio (-)
  6. Chicago, Ill. (5)
  7. Columbus, Ohio (8)
  8. Cincinnati, Ohio (2)
  9. Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas (7)
  10. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif. (-)
  11. Denver, Colo. (12)
  12. Toledo, Ohio (-)
  13. Oklahoma City, OK (-)
  14. Baltimore, Md. (9)
  15. New York, N.Y. (3)

When I first moved to Denver, I found an apartment on Craigslist and moved in unaware the apartment was infested with bed bugs due to inadequate maintenance on behalf of the landlord before my move in date. I had never had the problem before, so I paid no attention to the intermittent bites (one or two on my legs over a week or so), assuming it was a spider or a mite. Then the bites became more frequent and only happened at night. After a little research, I determined the bite marks and locations were similar to those of bed bugs.

Several sites recommend removing the bedding and placing the articles in a dryer for at least an hour, transporting the linens in a garbage bag to keep them contained. The critters are highly resilient, able to withstand fairly extreme temperatures, but prolonged below freezing or 120+ degree heat will kill them and their eggs. I sealed my bed in a mattress bag and replaced the bedding to no avail.

I was still waking with more bites than ever meaning the nest wasn’t in the bedding but nearby. Bed bugs will travel up to 20 feet from their nest to feed. Next, I bagged up all of the clothes in my closet all of my rugs, curtains, towels, etc. It was winter, so I sat all the bags in the car overnight, the below freezing temperatures mixed with the air-tight seal of the trash bags would make doubly sure those articles were bed bug free in the morning, right?

My apartment, at this juncture, looked like more of a halfway house than a place I was paying nearly $1000 a month to live in. The landlord had ignored my calls, and when finally pressed to deal with the situation in an email, he merely claimed that I had brought them in myself absolving himself of the problem (landlord tenant bed bug legalities are a judicial quagmire). I steamed and vacuumed the apartment and sprayed a variety of pesticides (including bug bombs, etc.).

As if the inconvenience or perpetually heating, drying and ominously transporting my laundry in garbage bags to the Wash-O-Rama wasn’t enough, the psychological horror of waking in the middle of the night to the slightest tickle or itch is like no other. I never once saw a bed bug (dead or alive) during the entire dilemma. The bed bugs release a numbing agent as they bite, meaning the itch or burn of the bite doesn’t even start until long afterward.

All in all, I followed every remedy short of taking a dewormer capsule before bed. Yes, this is actually a last ditch effort to combat the epidemic; taking a dewormer to eventually pass along the toxic medicine to the bed bugs via one’s own blood and eradicate them one by one.

I had to eventually hire a lawyer before the landlord would take up the issue (the legal fee was cheaper than simply breaking lease, losing my deposit and my last month’s rent). Exterminators brought in trained dogs and determined the bugs were actually coming in from an adjacent apartment in the building making me more of the resident dessert.

They sprayed, killing the colony, and nearly four months into my nightmare the problem was resolved. And if I learned anything from this shithole life experience, it's that Denver does not know how to handle its bed bug problem. Landlords are clueless and don't want to take responsibility, tenants are too poor to take the most effective actions, and while they figure that shit out, good, good-looking people like me are getting eaten alive. Considering this, it's pretty easy to see why Denver ranks so highly on bed bug epicenters.

If only you could kill them with vape smoke …