Holiday travel brings people and bed bugs together
by Tommy Underhill
November 17, 2018
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This weekend marks the busiest travel days of the year. Lumped together with the rest of the Winter holidays, we are coming into a season that rivals the summer for bed bug feeding opportunities.
Hotel room cleanliness is not a tell for the presence of bed bugs. These insects don’t care if the room is clean or dirty. A 5-Star resort can have bed bugs just as easily as the local 1-Star roach motel. The EPA offers the following travel tips to help avoid bed bugs:
- Inspect any room where you will be staying for the presence of bed bugs. You generally can do this without any extra tools but a flashlight can be useful.
- Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping.
- In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor. Try to keep luggage away from bed.
- Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully. Remember that [extended] time in a dryer at high temperatures kills the bed bugs (just washing will generally not kill bed bugs).
- Store suitcases away from your bedroom, such as in the basement or garage. Never store suitcases under your bed.
Other tips to consider include:
- Bed bugs will climb into bags and luggage. It is a good idea to store your luggage in plastic bags when you’re not using them. This will keep any bed bugs you bring home confined in the bag around your luggage.
- Keep clothes off the floor, beds, chairs, and dressers. Bed bugs like piles of clothes. bed bugs will crawl into items that are left on the floor or any surface on which they harbor. If a female lays eggs in something you left on the floor, a chair, or a bed, you could end up with a problem. Bed bug eggs don’t need the mother in order to hatch— and are resistant to most pesticides.
The NPMA recommends the following tips for bed bug prevention when traveling:
- At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
- Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change rooms/establishments immediately.
- If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
- Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
- Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.
- Wash all of your clothes— even those that have not been worn— in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.
Don’t assume you’ve been bitten at home just because you have bed bug bites appear on your family after you get home. Bite marks discovered shortly after arriving home are probably from being bit while away from home. Some people react within a couple of days of being bit. Others require longer for bite welts to form. In most situations, new bites that continue to show in the weeks after arriving home may be indicative you brought bed bugs home with you— it might be time to call a professional.
I will be at the Global Bed Bug Summit at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver on November 27-28. If you’re in town or at the conference, stop by our booth and share your story with us!