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Thursday, March 3, 2016

A traveler’s nightmare…

I spent last week at the Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America and was unfortunate enough to run into some welcome guests in the hotel – bed bugs. As many can relate, when I was a kid my mom would often say to me “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” But for most people, we haven’t actually encountered bed bugs as they were almost eradicated several decades ago with the use of DDT. Today, however, as we travel more both nationally and internationally, we are unknowingly bringing some extra baggage with us.

Bed bugs have seen a global resurgence in the past 15 years and don’t discriminate between hosts, housing types, or, unfortunately, hotels. As long as they can get a blood meal they are happy campers. They are notoriously hard to control once an infestation gets started, so I wanted to give everyone some tips to stay ahead of this epidemic when you leave the comforts of your home!

My arm last week after sharing a bed with some bed bugs! Several bites in a line like this are characteristic of bed bug bites. 

An adult bed bug (Photo: Bart Drees, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

Tips for Travelers: Scouting for Bed Bugs

How to scout your hotel room for bed bugs:
1.     Don’t put any belongings on the bed or unpack before you complete your inspection. I put my luggage on the luggage rack (usually in the closets of most rooms) or in the bathroom until I have checked for bed bugs.
2.     Things you are looking for:
·      actual bed bugs
·      shed skin of immature bugs
·      dark brown fecal spots (dried excrement)
Adult bed bugs are approximately a quarter of an inch long and red-brown with oval, flattened bodies. Immature bed bugs are smaller versions of the adults, but with a much lighter color and approximately the size of a pinhead.
3.     Begin with a preliminary check around the room. Focus on the corners of ceilings and the baseboards.
4.     Remove the corners of the fitted sheet and look underneath the mattress and box spring. Examine the mattress seams and crevices in the box spring. Pay special attention to head of the bed. Most cell phones have a flashlight that is very useful for this!
5.     You should also inspect crevices in the bed frame. This is especially important if the bed frame is wood!
6.     If there is a removable headboard, remove it from the wall and inspect the crevices on the back. This is a common place for bed bug infestations to begin. If you have never done this before, make sure you have two people to remove it safely.
7.     Other things that can be inspected include behind picture frames or couches and chairs. But limit your search to items near the bed!

What to do if your hotel room has bed bugs:
1.     Call the front desk and request a new room. Problems are usually contained in a particular area, so try to get a room in a different area.
2.     Quarantine all your belongings in garbage bags (or something similar), especially if they were on/near the bed or if you experienced bites.
3.     Put everything that is safe for laundering in a dryer at high heat for at least 45 minutes. DO NOT wash first! A washing machine does not typically get hot enough to kill all the bugs. After you have dried everything, then you can resume a normal washing routine.
4.     Keep your luggage/anything that can’t be laundered in a closed garbage bag until you can treat it. Contact your local pest control company for how to do this.

Important facts about bed bugs:
·      Bed bugs feed only on the blood of animals and spend most of their time where they can get a reliable blood meal from their host. In the case of hotel rooms, this is near the bed. Only when they are very hungry, or there is a bad infestation, will you find them in other places.
·      Bed bugs do not transmit diseases when they bite. Every person reacts differently, ranging from mild irritation and itching to large, red welts. Some reactions are delayed and occur days or even weeks after the bite.
·      Bed bug bites are usually painless so people don’t always realize they are being bitten. Any exposed skin is vulnerable, such as arms, legs, face, or neck. Bed bugs will typically make several bites at at time, often in a short line.
·      Bed bugs are mostly active at night and can go months without a blood meal. Therefore, ignoring a problem and hoping that they starve is not a reliable solution.
·      There has been a global resurgence in bed bugs over the last decade and eradicating an infestation can be time-consuming and expensive. Taking pro-active measures when you’re traveling to avoid bringing them home is always worth it!  


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  4. Thanks for the great blog entry. Is there a particular steamer that you recommend? I've heard that the typical steamer for personal use won't last if you try to steam your whole house from top to bottom.So I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the impressive articles on this website. Keep up the wonderful work and if you want more info about how to deal with bedbugs in your home or hotels then visit here.

    1. I don't have a particular recommendation for a steamer, but if you have to try something on your whole house - it might be too big of a job and you may need to call a pest control technician. Otherwise, a vacuum will work well across all the infested areas. Just make sure to empty it outside after each use.

  5. You have shared great information and wish this will help me in finding right pest management company. I have observed symptoms of bedbugs at my house and planning to get treatment from a reputed company. Hope to find affordable and right one.

    1. Unfortunately if you're seeing fecal spots like that, you may have a bed bug infestation. A good company will conduct a thorough inspection of your house and especially the suspected infested area. You can make their job easier by de-cluttering any things you may have in your home - bed bugs love to hide in small crevices in cardboard boxes for example, and the more stuff we have around the more places they have to hide!

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