Phoenix Area Listed as "Buggiest" in United States

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Metro Phoenix tops the list for urban areas infested with creepy critters, a services-finding website says.

Thumbtack.com is like an Angie's List competitor and one of the top websites in the country, hooking up Internet users with services like music lessons, home repair, and, of course, pest-control services. Unlike a "buggiest" list released by the National Pest Management Association in June, which created its rankings according to traffic received by the website pestworld.org, the new list reportedly is based on thousands of actual requests for service.

Thumbtack released its findings this week in a Top-10 list and article, declaring that "Phoenix, Arizona was far and away the leading bug zone."

The site's representatives "looked at 159 of the largest metro areas across the U.S. and measured the number of requests for pest-removal services, relative to the population in that metro, using these figures to develop the Thumbtack Pest Index... The categories we included in our measure of pest-removal requests were pest-control services, bed bug extermination, outdoor pesticide application, and termite and pest inspection.:

Based on those criteria, metro Phoenix rated a perfect 100 on the index. The next highest was the San Antonio, Texas, area with a pest index of 60.

Why might this area be the buggiest? Maybe it's the raw variety of bugs here: Phoenix is well-known for its scorpions and Africanized bees, but it can also be a hot spot for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, swarms of nasty flies, and the beloved cockroach. 

Lucas Puente, economic analyst with Thumbtack, said he can't explain it, and was a "little surprised by the story the data told." Possibly, the lack of a long, freezing winter means a more prolific bug season, he surmised. 

At New Times' request, Thumbtack released an additional chart that shows the breakdown of bugs mentioned in the requests for service. Cockroaches, spiders, ants, and termites generate the most requests. Six percent of people seeking services didn't know what kind of bug problem they had, which is never a good thing. Scorpions fall in the 12 percent of "other." But they're a special problem here, Puente acknowledged.

"Of note, there were far more requests describing problems with scorpions in Phoenix than in any other metropolitan area," he said. 

Johnny Dilone, spokesman for the Maricopa County Environmental Services department, said the county can't confirm Thumbtack's designation of metro Phoenix as "buggiest."

"I think I'd have to agree with all the bugs I see everywhere, but that's just personal," he said.

People from other areas often think Phoenix doesn't have as many skeeters as other, more humid places they've lived, but even if they're right, Dilone said, they soon realize that the Valley has its fair share.

How many bugs are crawling and flying around the Valley often depends on the weather. Last year's rains brought more mosquitoes than are seen this year, he said. The county's Vector Control office also receives numerous complaints about flies and bedbugs, he said.

So check those slippers for scorpions and keep a spray can full of insect repellent handy — you'll probably need it, if you live in metro Phoenix.

UPDATE: Vince Craig, a system director of compliance for the Arizona Department of Agriculture, was skeptical of Thumbtack's list, saying he had no evidence that could confirm Phoenix as "buggiest." Possibly, he suggested, the company's results might stem from having more service providers or Internet users from Arizona than other states. 

One great piece of advice from Craig: Be sure that anyone providing pest-control services on your property is licensed by the state. Individuals and companies must pass an exam and receive a state license in order to legally administer professional-grade pesticides, according to state law.

(After Craig mentioned this, New Times put out a request for pest-control service on Thumbtack. The first company to respond, First Inspection, has an active license in Arizona. We'll update this article if anything unusual turns up.)

(This story originally appeared October 7)

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