DENVER, CO – Bed bugs are nasty. There’s no two ways about that. They’re basically tiny nocturnal vampires that leave painful, itchy red marks on your skin and can lead to thousands of dollars in property damage. A description for the the tiny parasites on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website sounds more like something from a horror movie than an actual living creature: They “feed solely on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep.”

And according to exterminators at the Atlanta-based Orkin, Denver ranks 28th in the country for bed bugs (up from 27th last year). The list was based on data from the metro areas where the company performed the most bed bug eradication treatments from Dec. 1, 2017 to Noc. 30, 2018. Both residential and commercial treatments were included in the results.

These surveys are not exactly scientific, but Orkin competitor Terminix ranked Denver about the same –25th on the list – in November in a similar survey. The good news about the Terminix survey is that Denver had fallen in ranking from No. 5 in 2017.

But, according to Orkin, if you plan to stay in Baltimore, bring a magnifying glass and scrutinize the mattress. For the third straight year, the “Charm City,” as it’s affectionately known, ranked No. 1 in the country for bed bugs, followed by Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Here are the top 10 cities:

Baltimore Washington, D.C. Chicago Los Angeles Columbus, Ohio New York Cincinnati Detroit Atlanta Philadelphia

The Orkin list saw five newcomers this year: Lansing, Michigan; Orlando; Davenport, Iowa; Ft. Wayne, Indiana; and Youngstown, Ohio. New York City moved up two spots while Atlanta and Philadelphia joined the top 10.

Bed bugs are the “number one urban pest” in many cities, Orkin entomologist Chelle Hartzer said in a release.

“They are master hitchhikers, so no one is immune,” Hartzer said. “Sanitation has nothing to do with prevention: From public transit to five-star resorts, bed bugs have been and can be found everywhere humans are.”

The bugs are reddish-brown and range from as small as 1 millimeter to as large as 7 millimeters, or about the size of Abraham Lincoln’s head on a penny on the larger end of the scale. They can also live for several months without a blood meal, federal health officials said.

And they don’t discriminate. They’re found across the globe, including in five-star hotels and on public transit. Most often, they’re found in areas where people sleep. This includes apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains and dormitories. It’s harder to find them during the day.

They’re pretty good at hiding in places such as mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. In fact, they often live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Bed bug bites affect each person differently. Some bed bug bites won’t physically show up at all, others will leave small marks that can take as long as two weeks to develop. And you might not know you’ve been bitten. The parasites actually “inject” — that’s the CDC’s language — an anesthetic and an anticoagulant into you, preventing you from realizing you’ve been bitten.

“Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite,” the CDC wrote on its website.

While bed bugs are not considered dangerous, they can lead some to experience serious allergic reactions that require immediate medical attention.

Once bed bugs are established, the multiply quickly.

An adult female lays two to five eggs per day, and up to 500 over the course of her lifetime, Orkin said. This makes treating the infestation difficult.

“Bed bugs are an elusive threat to your household and beyond, so it’s critical to detect and treat for them as early as possible,” said Orkin. “Anyone who suspects a bed bug infestation should contact a pest management professional immediately.”

In Denver, you can find out more about bedbugs at the Denver Department of Environmental Health.

According to the DDEH, if you suspect you have an infestation, contact your landlord or a professional pest control company familiar with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is to regularly look for signs of an infestation. For more information, or to report a bed bug infestation, please contact the Denver Department of Environmental Health at 3-1-1.

Patch national staffer Dan Hampton contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Brian Kersey/Getty Images

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