Bed bugs in Greater Cincinnati

by nobugsonme on July 26, 2010 · 23 comments

This is the first in a series of which point you to local information. Most of what we have so far is on Cincinnati and Hamilton County, though this page will also include Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. I welcome additional tips and links to be added; please comment below if you have any. Thanks!


Bed bugs are a big problem in the Greater Cincinnati area. The Spring 2008 Greater Cincinnati Health Survey conducted by The University of Cincinnati Institute for Policy Research found that 14.5% of Cincinnati residents have had bed bugs (that’s one in seven people, and that was the statistic in 2008 — the numbers are likely greater now).

Self-treatment is common in Cincinnati, which is likely helping bed bugs spread there. The Greater Cincinnati Health Survey also found that 31% of Cincinnati residents with bed bugs had used only an over-the-counter spray to treat their problem. (This is unlikely to solve a bed bug problem.)

Attempting to get rid of bed bugs with alcohol or OTC pesticides, local residents have set their homes on fire in Cincinnati, and in Hamilton County, where fourteen people were displaced after someone tried to treat bed bugs using alcohol-based pesticides while smoking.

In 2009, Ohio requested an emergency exemption request for pest professionals to be able to use the pesticide Propoxur to treat bed bugs (under certain controlled conditions). This was denied in June 2010, and again in January 2011.

In January 2008, there was a tri-state (Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana) meeting about bed bugs. Also in 2008, Cincinnati and Hamilton County formed a Joint Bed Bug Task Force. You can download their Strategic Plan at New York vs. Bed Bugs.

We try to include correct and up-to-date local information where possible. However, we cannot be responsible for the accuracy of information on this website. Please double check local laws and regulations to be sure information is correct and has not changed. We are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. If you have questions about the law and how it applies to your case, please consult a lawyer.

Note: for Ohio residents, the Ohio Department of Health will provide identification services for samples sent in by Ohio residents. You can download this form or call ODH at (614) 752-1029 and press Option 1 for information.

Jump to: Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Northern Kentucky


The City of Cincinnati has a two-minute Public Service Announcement video produced by the CHD Environmental Division on their bed bug page. (Click here to download and view it.) It suggests homeowners are responsible for their own treatment, while tenants must notify their landlords and cooperate with treatment.

However, the Strategic Plan of the JBBTF says,

The laws that govern the actions of the Cincinnati Health Department include Board of Health Regulations 00053-9(D), 00053-9(E) and 00053-11(D), as well as the Neighborhood Quality of Life Code, CMC 1601-17 (Title XVI), and Ohio state law. The Board of Health and city municipal code regulations assign responsibility for abatement of vermin to both the owner/ manager and the occupant of an infested building. This means that the Health Department may not be able to enforce abatement orders against owner/managers of large apartment buildings without also enforcing abatement orders against the tenants.

In other words, landlords do not have to pay for treatment in Cincinnati.

And tenants can no longer get their units inspected by the city. Even though requests for bed bug inspections went from 70 in 2007 to 750 in 2008, Cincinnati stopped funding bed bug inspection program in the 2009 budget, and bed bug inspections ceased there in January 2009. (More on this here).

The Cincinnati PSA says that anyone can call the City of Cincinnati Customer Service at 513-591-6000 “for more information” about bed bugs, to receive informational materials, or to arrange pickup for infested furniture if needed. (Note: infested furniture can often be treated to remove bed bugs, and many experts recommend this instead of tossing it out.)

The PSA states that regulations may require that any insecticidal applications be made by a licensed pest control operator. (Note: I suspect this may relate to the number of units in the building, as appears to be the case in the case of Hamilton County; more below on the laws there.)

(The Cincinnati PSA is not bad but I am not sure about the suggestion that items should be washed on hot then placed in a hot dryer for only 5 minutes; we understand that Dr. Michael Potter’s research showed bed bugs were killed in dried clothing which was put in a hot dryer for 10 minutes; we do not know of research which shows 5 minutes is enough time in which to kill bed bugs in wet clothing. If someone has a reference, please share it in the comments below. More on how to kill bed bugs in clothing in this FAQ.)

Bedbugger stories about bed bugs in Cincinnati.

Hamilton County

Hamilton County Public Health has a general brochure on bed bugs (PDF), which states,

If you rent a home or apartment within Hamilton County (excluding cities of Cincinnati, Norwood, Sharonville or Springdale) and you think you have bed bugs, please contact the Hamilton County Public Health at (513) 946-7832. Sanitarians will work with your landlord to eliminate the problem.

(This map shows the service area for HCPH.)

The JBBTF STrategic Plan notes,

The laws that govern the actions of Hamilton County Public Health are County code PHESR 1-67, Section 4.16, as well as Ohio state law. PHESR 1-67 allows citation of owners for abatement of vermin.

Renee Corea of New York vs. Bed Bugs interviewed Jeremy Hessel of HCPH and this provides additional insight on the laws and resources there,

Under Ohio Department of Agriculture pesticide rules, an owner of a building of three units or less is allowed to treat the building without an applicator license. Hessel considers this a significant challenge in Hamilton County. Nonetheless, building owners have started to come round to the idea of hiring competent pest management professionals to service bed bug complaints in their properties, and they’re starting to understand what is required for eradication.

Who pays for treatments in Hamilton County? When tenants were being charged for bed bug treatments, Hessel said, Hamilton County consulted Legal Aid attorneys on their behalf. Unless the landlord could prove that the tenant “brought them in” or that unreasonable destruction was caused by the tenant, the landlord was responsible.

Corea also cites Hessel encouraging homeowners to call HCPH for advice and guidance on bed bugs, saying:

We’ll try to give as much guidance as possible, and sometimes we even go to their homes.

You can contact HCPH here.

Hamilton County Public Health also provides guidelines for social workers and home health care nurses (PDF) and guidelines for schools (PDF).

Hamilton County residents can go here to file a Public Nuisance Complaint about bed bugs in public places or rental homes. You can file a complaint anonymously, but including your name, and street or email address means you can receive an update on the outcome of the investigation.

Bedbugger stories about bed bugs in Hamilton County.

Northern Kentucky

Bed bugs have hit many Northern Kentucky homes, as well as other places as diverse as the IRS offices in Covington (in 2008), the Northern Kentucky University dorms, and the Burlington Library (note: Boone Co. libraries are now taking steps to avoid further problems).

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has a fact sheet you can read online (or download as a PDF).

It suggests that for more information about bed bugs, you can call the Northern Kentucky Health Department’s Environmental Health and Safety office at 859.341.4151. Since we do not yet have information on laws regarding who pays for bed bug treatment in rented homes in the area, we suggest you also direct such questions to the Health Department, or ask them who to consult. (Please send us links to relevant information if you find it.)

Bedbugger stories about bed bugs in Northern Kentucky.

(You can view additional bed bug fact sheets, such as those from OSU and the U of Kentucky, as well as other resources such as manuals about bed bugs and treatment options — look under “Comprehensive Guides” — in our Resources page.)

Last updated 1/25/2011


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren July 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

I had an infestation two years ago and wanted to pass along a PCO recommendation: Permakil Pest Control in Covington. They were my second PCO after being very unsatisfied with my first. I found them to be extremely knowledeable, curtious, and serious about solving my problem.

2 Carpathian Peasant August 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm

It would really be best if you made your location listing something like Cincinnati Regional Area, Greater Cincinnati or _only_ maybe Grester Cincinnati and Hamilton County. There is so much interaction between Northern Kentucky and soutwestern Ohio that they might as well be considered one thing. You might even including Dayton, Ohio, which is only 50 or so miles to the north.

The three states (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) all have different laws, which complicates things like media reports. Methods reported by the media which is primarily based in Ohio don’t work in Northern Kentucky, for example, because the laws are different, yet that’s all people have to go by.

Northern Kentucky is well populated, but the people are in dozens of little towns scattered about the area. There’s no real uniformity or central source for action. If places like Covington, Newport, Boone County which has the regional airport to the south, etc., were all directed to one regional place it would probably help a lot.

3 nobugsonme August 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Thanks, Carpathian.

As I am able to add more regional information, I will consider changing the title of this page to reflect that.

If you can point to more information which should be included, please do!

4 Lauren August 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm
5 halfmad August 23, 2010 at 2:01 am

PLEASE include Northern KY on this page. I agree with Carpathian Peasant; we live in one BIG suburb of Cincinnati which is unfortunately divided up into “cities” or “townships” seemingly arbitrarily or perhaps for the for the purpose of changing tax regulations every few feet? Maybe there’s no other way to put a firehouse on every other corner but to declare every two blocks a different town? I don’t know. One such “city,” Crestview Hills, consists of two or three blocks of an upper-class strip mall and a SIGN welcoming you to to Crestview Hills. Period. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every other part of the country I’ve lived in, cities and towns are divided by stretches of highway or other natural demarcations – rivers, mountains, etc. This crap is crazy, where you’re on the same road and within five minutes you’ve been through the “main drag” of three towns and you wouldn’t even know it were it not for the signs!

There is Burlington, where I live; Florence; Rabbit Hash; Bellevue Bottoms; Hebron; Erlanger; Elsemere; Ft. Wright; Ft. Mitchell; Ft. Thomas; Alexandria; Independence; Walton; Verona; Covington (which is quite rangy and just across the river from Cincinnasty); Bellevue; Latonia; Newport, Taylor Mill, Lakeside, …I am not from here and these are the “towns” that I can remember (leaving more than twice those named which I can’t remember) that take up about 30 miles total, just across the river from Cincinnati. Were it labeled the one big town that it really is, we wouldn’t have all our news out of Cincinnati (since we’re so close); our local Craigslist would differentiate between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, but it doesn’t (because we’re so close). Please, please include us. We’re tired of the big city getting all the bedbug attention because Kentucky likes to pretend it has nice little hamlets. We are getting eaten alive here, every apartment complex within this region is infested, and I know that our landlord, who sent one PCO, one time, for a period or 1-2 hours to treat an infestation reported by our friends and downstairs neighbors. Then we received a note saying that we had to “confess” if we had them, agree to treatment, and then pay for such “treatment” if the landlords determine that we are the cause. They will always determine that the tenant is the cause. These are people who let a broken washer and dryer set sit in the laundry room for a year, promising us new ones “next week” the entire time. It is obvious that they are not going to go past the one-time treatment on the one apartment (and after throwing all their stuff out, those people STILL have them), and if I tried to force their hand legally by demanding thorough treatment of the building, they’d go under and we would be competing with everyone else for spots in other apartment complexes around here, all of which have been reported for bedbugs. PLEASE help us know what our rights are; we can watch all the reports out of Cincinnati, but we can’t call the numbers or seek help from whomever the newscasters direct us to. There are just as many of us here, across the river, suffering in near-silence.

6 nobugsonme August 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Hi halfmad,

I am happy to extend the range of this “local page” to cover a wider area. The only problem is that it is sometimes hard to gather local information. (Consider that I am trying to make this a resource for everyone, everywhere, and you can imagine how hard it is to gather that degree of information without local help.)

If you can share any links to local laws and resources you come across, I will add them. Otherwise, I will add them when I am able to find out more.

7 nobugsonme August 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Thanks to input from folks in Northern Kentucky, the page has been renamed (“Greater Cincinnati” instead of “Cincinnati and Hamilton County”) and has been expanded.

I now have a Northern Kentucky section above with limited information (but including a phone number which may be quite helpful). I will add information on the situation in southeastern Indiana, but we do not have anything on this yet.

As you’ll appreciate, it’s difficult to locate all of this information online, and we really need tips from locals. Thanks!

8 Carpathian Peasant August 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Thank you so very much for the name change. I have walked through the parking lots in the downtown areas of both Cincinnati and Covington and more or less counted the out of state license plates. Roughly a fourth are from the otherside of the river. It makes sense for people from Kentucky to go into Cincinnati for some things and for people from Ohio to go to the airport, but Covington? I have an apartment in a big apartment building in Kentucky and there are Ohio license plates in the apartment building parking lot.

As for Indiana, they HAVE to have a problem. The casinos are there. The only publication in Northern Kentucky that I know of that was willing to do an in-depth report was the monthly community newspaper in Ludlow, Kentucky. It’s a little town near the airport. Go to the link and “LCC Issues” (on the left), November 2009 PDF file and it starts on page 8 —

What I was told was that the only thing a person could call is city code enforcement — that be in Covington and Newport. So, call code enforcement and code enforcement gets on a landlord that isn’t handling it well enough and the landord runs out the tenant on charges of poor housekeeping. (Been there; done that.)

9 nobugsonme August 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Thanks, Carpathian Peasant.

It sounds like a difficult place to be. It may help to lobby local officials about the problem — as well as calling the health department (even if it turns out they can only give information).

It’s clear from other places that this can have an effect in the long run on what elected and appointed officials will do, though it can take time and so I fear it won’t be a big help in the short run, in your individual situation.

10 nobugsonme August 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Carpathian Peasant — thanks also for alerting me to the LCC News piece on bed bugs.

It’s not bad, though not very helpful. For one thing, they did not include an actual picture of an actual bed bug. (What is that thing, anyway?!?)

Also the advice for tenants to call their building manager or landlord doesn’t really clarify the laws about bed bugs and tenants. From what you say, it sounds like landlords are responsible, though they may try to push the costs back through legal action (such as claims that tenants are the cause).

11 CarpathianPeasant September 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm

The Ludlow paper is a very small publication. It’s a very small town, just somewhere around 3,000 – 4,000 people. They may not have been able to find a picture. It is the best thing I’ve seen.

12 CarpathianPeasant September 4, 2010 at 4:42 pm

The state of Kentucky (Commonwealth of Kentucky) has a state office and an email address for bed bug stuff. I don’t know how useful it is, but there is an office specifically for bed bugs.

I don’t know about the other two states.

13 CarpathianPeasant September 4, 2010 at 4:49 pm

This is probably about the best Indiana has to offer.

At the bottom they refer people to Kentucky.

14 yasemin September 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Does anyone have a list of safe laundry mats to go to in Cincinnati that don’t have bed bugs?

15 pen lou December 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I need help i have lived in my rented duplex for 6 months my neighbor got bedbugs and now i have them and i dont have the resources to take care of them i talked to landlord he stated its my responsibility and that he will not pay for it i ask him if we pay it if it can be taken off rent he said no they are in my furniture and there is a hole in the base board where they are coming from can i break the lease legally or put his money in escrow to take care of problem… please i need help

16 nobugsonme December 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Hi pen,
Whether the landlord needs to pay for treatment or not depends where you live.

My understanding is that in Cincinnati, the tenant is responsible for treatment, whereas in Hamilton County, the landlord is responsible for treatment unless s/he can prove the tenant brought them in — and please note, in most cases this would seem to be very difficult or impossible to prove with certainty.

You should consult a tenants’ rights group in your area (county/city/state) which should be able to help you in terms of both whether the landlord is responsible and what you should do to enforce this if s/he is. Good luck and please come to the forums if you want more input:

17 Wendy January 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Dr. Michael Potter worked as a consultant with a local company to create the bed bug mattress protector I bought and I am very happy with it. I also learned that if you use the promo code “Gift” you get a 40% discount just for living in Hamilton County! The woman who owns the company is trying to work with people who need help in fighting bed bugs and she and Dr. Potter did a great job with Bedshield. Too bad more people do not know about this or want to help like they are.

18 Master Pokes April 2, 2012 at 5:57 pm

It makes me sick that the city is not doing anything to help people here. I live in Cincinnati and found out TODAY that I have bedbugs for the third time. It has been several years, and a couple of homes since the last time. I have no vectors in common over that time that I can figure out, I haven’t ridden the bus, I am very careful. I am not poor, until a few weeks ago I had a good paying job. However, currently, I am unemployed and without much resources. I cleaned and vacuumed the bedroom, washed the linens and powdered the bed frame, slats and surrounding possible harbourages with DE using an approved “poofer.” I am lucky that my landlord is actually a friend. But, he is not happy and even he is blaming me, though he works with the underprivileged here in town and knows what a problem it is. The fact that this area leads the nation in bed bug cases and the city, county and state do nothing to help is absolutely criminal.

19 Teresa April 30, 2015 at 12:58 pm

We bought a house that we were told had bedbugs. We hired a man to do a heat treatment and he believed it was sucssessfu. We saw a total of seven bedbugs within two months of the treatment (caught them all in a baggie). Although they were found in four rooms of the house, we believe they all came from the bathroom. No one was bitten and they were all found in random places. The exterminator came back and sprayed and said he would spray every two weeks until he cleared them all. First spray and I found a BB the next day in my hair dryer. No more. Second spray and we found one two days later in the linen cabinet and one this morning sitting on my dirty clothes I had take off the night before. Again, these are all in the bathroom. We are beginning to wonder if we are doing the right thing with the every two week spray and how long it is going to take to be BB free?

20 nobugsonme April 30, 2015 at 1:17 pm

HI Theresa,
Please repost your question on our active user forums. Non-experts like myself will respond, but we have some experts there also.

It would be unusual for bed bugs to be coming from a bathroom unless perhaps you have an attached neighbor and they’re coming from there, or perhaps you have a closely related species.

Based on what you’re saying, I wonder if you may have a closely related species (bird or bat bug). Are there any bats or birds nesting on or near the home?

Is your home attached to a neighbor?

When you post to the Bedbugger Forums, I encourage you to post a photo also if you have one. Anyway, let’s continue the conversation there.

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