Everyone’s worst nightmare is an encounter with bed bugs while traveling. Unfortunately, the average hotel faces about seven bed bug infestations every five years.
If you’re planning on staying at a hotel, you might already be planning to conduct a bed bug inspection of your own upon arrival. But hopefully you’ll sleep a bit easier knowing that most hotels already take several measures to stop infestations in their tracks.
One of the primary steps hotels take in treating bed bugs is regular inspection. Live bed bugs are obviously the clearest red flag, but they may be found in surprising places. Most commonly, bed bugs live close to the seams or tags of mattresses or box springs or in cracks or crevices surrounding the bed frame and headboard.
They can also be found in crevices or between cushions of other furniture (i.e., couches and chairs) or on curtains. Bed bugs even like to live in drawers (especially the joint where the side of the chest meets the drawer), in electrical outlets and appliances, under wallpaper or wall art, in the corner between the wall and the ceiling, along door or window frames, and in the heads of screws.
These insects can hide in any space the width of a credit card or bigger. While humans are (unfortunately) their preferred host, they are known to feed on other mammals and birds as well. And while they’re nocturnal, they will forage for a host in broad daylight if necessary. Bed bugs can travel anywhere between 5-20 feet from their hiding spots (“harborages”) to feed.
There are other telltale signs to keep an eye out for; for instance, stains on sheets. Rusty or reddish spots may be the remains of crushed bed bugs. Dark spots (about this size • ) that may bleed like a marker could be bed bug droppings. Blood spots on sheets may be a sign of bed bugs, as larger bed bugs will often expel the remains of former meals to “make room” during their next feeding. You may even find eggs or eggshells, which are about 1 mm in diameter and pale yellow in color.
It’s recommended that hotels hire a professional pest control service to perform an inspection at least once, if not twice per year.
Another crucial step in bed bug prevention for hotels is the protection of mattresses and box springs. This can be done with various encasements and covers that zip around the entire mattress or box spring. Many on the market are water resistant and protect against dust mites and other allergens as well as bed bugs. Made of slick material, these encasements trap bed bugs inside, separating them from their desired host and food source.
Bed bug interceptors are also available to trap the insects (they’re typically installed after an infestation has been treated to ensure the job is done). These small, dish-like objects can be placed on the legs of a bed to trap any bugs that try to climb into the mattress.
When hotels treat bed bugs, it’s essential to treat the entire affected hotel room(s) rather than simply disposing of infested mattress(es). For instance, other furniture may need to be treated or disposed of, and most other objects in the room will likely need to be treated or sealed in plastic bags until the bed bugs are dead.
Small objects and belongings left in the room will likely need to be treated with extreme heat, extreme cold, or hot steam in order to ensure that the bed bugs die. As needed, a pest control service may also use chemicals or other pesticides.
Notably, sticky traps are notoriously ineffective at catching bed bugs, and home remedies like kerosene, rubbing alcohol, and gasoline are dangerous as all three are highly flammable.
Prior to professional treatment, hotels will need to isolate any potentially infested rooms. This means sealing any doors and windows and ensuring that guests don’t stay in said rooms until they’re treated.
Many hotels take measures to ensure guests are educated on bed bug prevention. For instance, it might grant you peace of mind to conduct your own inspection of sorts when checking into a hotel.
Look for the aforementioned signs of bed bugs: live bugs, spots on sheets, and eggs or egg shells in the bed and around the room. Check to see if the hotel has any bed bug prevention methods already in place like a mattress encasement or bed bug interceptors on the bed’s legs. To be extremely safe, you may want to perform daily checks and check your suitcase before you leave. Alert the hotel staff immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
If you don’t catch a bed bug infestation until it’s too late, you might notice bites on your skin. These bites are small, red, inflamed, and arranged in a line or cluster with the darkest spot in the middle. They may itch or burn and are most commonly located on the face, arms, hands, or neck. If you suspect you have bed bug bites, alert the hotel staff immediately and request an inspection of your room. It may also be a good idea to request a new room.
It’s worth noting that if you’ve stayed overnight in an infested room, your belongings may need to be treated. Any clothes, luggage, or other personal items will need to be sealed in plastic bags and possibly subjected to heat, cold, hot steam, or pesticides.
Most hotels also take the time to educate their staff on bed bug protocol. The hotel or a pest control service may offer a training course in order to ensure everyone on staff is certified. With a trained and vigilant staff, hotels are equipped to stop any potential bed bug infestations before guests are affected.