As kids, our parents often tucked us into bed with the advice, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” But these days, getting bitten by a bed bug is no joking matter. Over the last decade, bed bugs have made a huge comeback, and one way they get around quickly is by hitching a ride with travelers.
According to AAA, 43.6 million Americans will be taking to the roads, skies and railways during the holiday season. Traveling is the fastest way bed bugs spread, no matter whether you’re staying at a five-star hotel, visiting relatives, or hosting friends and family yourself. If you or anyone you know will be among the season’s travelers, it’s important to be aware of bed bugs and know how to prevent them from invading your holiday.
Understanding bed bugs
Bed bugs can travel from place to place in luggage, on clothing and in personal belongings. Once inside a hotel or home, they can spread from room to room via furniture, pipes and even housekeeping devices like vacuum cleaners. Though bed bugs aren’t known to spread disease like other pests, they do leave itchy, bloody welts on human skin, so it’s important to keep them away from homes and businesses.
Bed bugs are flat, tiny insects with an oval shape and light tan to brown coloring—until after they bite, when they turn a reddish color. Adults are typically 3/16 of an inch long, about the size of an apple seed, while baby bed bugs are the size of a pin head. During the day, bed bugs disappear into mattresses, sheets and furniture, and hide behind baseboards and picture frames. They leave dark brown or red spots on surfaces, and in large infestations, bed bugs can create a musty, sweet odor like soda pop syrup.
S.L.E.E.P.: Bed bug precautions to remember
Travelers should check for signs of bed bugs anywhere they stay, and can prevent contact and travel with these pests by remembering the following S.L.E.E.P. tips from Orkin.
- Survey your hotel room for signs of a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are not a sanitation issue, so they can be found in a five-star hotel as well as a one-star motel. Look for brown or red spots on sheets and other fabrics, and be alert for a telltale musty, sweet odor.
- Lift and look. Bed bugs tend to settle in close proximity to their food source: you! During the day, these nocturnal insects will disappear into crevices in mattresses, box springs, bedding, furniture, hollow bedposts, baseboards, pictures and even torn wallpaper. So make sure to lift and look around all possible hiding spots.
- Elevate your luggage and other items. Carefully inspect the hotel’s luggage rack, and if it shows no signs of being a bed bug haven, use it to keep your suitcase off the floor and away from the bed. Also be sure to station the rack away from the wall before use to reduce the likelihood of a bed bug crawling up the wall and getting into your things.
- Examine your luggage while repacking as well as after you get home, to ensure you haven’t picked up any unwelcome visitors. It’s also wise to unpack in your garage or utility room, just to be sure your items are bed-bug-free before returning them to the bedroom.
- Professional help for bed bug issues is out there, so use it! Because bed bugs can survive extreme temperatures (up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit), can live for over a year without food and are extremely difficult to kill, treating an infestation requires the skill of an experienced, licensed, professional pest control operator.
Keep bed bugs from biting
If you’d like to learn more about how to prevent bed bugs from becoming part of your holiday, you’ll find a range of useful information to help identify and eliminate insect issues, including a pest library where you can look up any species you’ve spotted in or near your home, on Orkin.com.