Pest Identification

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How To Be Sure Your Hotel Room Does Not Have Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are world-class rovers that have hitchhiked across the globe. Since the early 2000s the bugs have become a major nuisance for travelers. The reddish-brown, wingless insects the size of a flat apple seed, migrate from place to place on luggage, clothing, and people. They crawl on travelers in dressing rooms, on buses and subways, and even on airplanes. And bed bugs are notorious for haunting hotel rooms, from cheapo “no-tell motels” to the finest 5-star resorts.

The problem with bed bugs isn’t their initial bite, which heals and usually leaves no permanent damage. The real damage is when they come home with you and multiply quickly in your bedding, mattresses, and furniture. Treating bed bug infestations can be very difficult, expensive, and traumatic.

Travelers who want to keep the bloodsucking parasites out of their lives must ensure that their hotel rooms are not infested. This requires extra work and vigilance. But as anyone who ever fought bed bugs at home will tell you, it’s worth the trouble.

Before you book a room, check the Internet. The Bed bug Registry is a free database of user-submitted bed bug reports from hotels, motels, and apartment rentals across North America. It makes a frightening reading.

Leave your luggage by the door or in the bathtub. Bed bugs migrate in luggage so leave yours shut tight before you check your room. Conduct a detailed inspection of the bed, the bed frame, and the headboard. Pull the bed away from the wall and shine a flashlight behind the headboard and under the bed. Strip all of the blankets, sheets, and the mattress pad off the bed. Lift the mattress off the box spring.

Bed bugs are difficult to see and they hide during the day. However, they leave poop and blood-stains after feeding. If you see tiny red or black spots on linens, the bed, or furniture—or piles of light brown skin casings from dead bed bugs—your room is infested. Keep your luggage closed and off the floor. Store it in the bathtub or on the luggage rack (after you have inspected it). Go to the front desk and ask for a different room. And don’t accept a room nearby; bed bugs migrate through duct work and wall cracks and are likely inhabiting adjoining rooms.

If you suspect your room had bed bugs, take precautions upon returning home. Before you put your luggage in the car, place it in a large plastic garbage bag. Unpack the case outdoors and immediately launder all clothing in the hottest water possible. Bed bugs can’t tolerate heat, so dry clothing on high for 30 minutes. Check your empty luggage for bugs and steam clean if necessary. With all that in mind: Bon voyage!