Start scratching. Terminix has just issued its annual list of top bed-bug infested cities. In a twist this year, the exterminator has identified the 15 top cities with the largest increase in infestations.

We'll get to that, but first, a look at where the most bed bug-specific calls from anguished (we presume) customers are coming from. Terminix has 300-plus branches nationwide.

The 15 cities with the greatest increases in bed bug complaint calls to Terminix:

- Sacramento - 54%

- Milwaukee - 53%

- Las Vegas - 50%

- Columbus, Ohio - 47%

- Baltimore - 46%

- Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. - 41%

- St. Louis - 40%

- Cleveland - 36%

- Louisville - 31%

- Denver - 28%

- Los Angeles - 27%

- San Francisco - 26%

- Dallas/Ft. Worth - 25%

- Nashville - 17%

- Houston - 15%


Cities with the top number of calls related to bed bugs through May of this year:

- Cincinnati

- Philadelphia

- Detroit

- New York

- Columbus

- Los Angeles

- Dallas

- Chicago

- Houston

- Baltimore


The Terminix press release quotes one of its entomologists as saying bed bugs have been associated with anemia, can lead to problems related to excessive scratching and can have a "psychological impact."

I stay in a lot of hotels and I've never seen a bed bug, nor have I been victim to any of the maladies mentioned here, save for occasional bouts of bed-bug hysteria triggered by reading lists like this one.

The condition causes me to whip off the top bedding for closer inspection of the sheets. I also attempt to look behind the headboard for telltale specks on the wall (though that's more often than not futile, since headboards in the grade of hotels I stay in tend to be bolted to the wall).

But more often than not, I don't think twice about these tenacious little suckers I keep reading about

Am I playing bed bug roulette? Are you on the lookout for bed bugs and, if so, have you ever seen one?

By Jayne Clark, USA Today