Controlling Bed Bugs
For many of us with our ears unpleasantly close to the situation, we get to hear about the status of bed bugs in Texas. From what I can hear, see, and believe, it is getting near an epidemic type stage. Many of the good folks working on the problem directly feel the same, sometimes a little more personally than we would like.
I have just recently returned from the Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America’s annual conference. I will not state where the conference was at or which hotel it was in for obvious reasons. I do not want to overly disparage the hotel because bed bugs are very hard to control and are spreading at an alarming and epidemic rate. However, we had a hotel full of entomologists which had numerous rooms infested with bed bugs. Meanwhile, the public and those who serve the public with travel housing are woefully uninformed.
|Dr Katelyn Kowles, EA-IPM Lubbock & Crosby and Kate Harrell, EA-IPM Wharton, Matagorda, & Jackson doing what it takes to prevent bed bugs from spreading to their homes once they were found in their hotel rooms. Photo- Dr. Pat Porter.|
Luckily for us, not so luckily for her, one of the first to confirm bed bugs in their room was our newly minted IPM Agent for Lubbock and Crosby Counties, Dr. Katelyn Kowles. It was already going to be difficult for the hotel to quietly get around the problem and deal with the issue once we checked out with so many of us being qualified entomologist. They had little chance with Dr. Kowles who is fresh off her post-doctorate work in bed bugs with the University of Kentucky. Dr. Kowles handled the situation beautifully. She checked each room before settling in (it took four tries to find a bed bug free room), made sure the hotel took care of their responsibility, and before the dust had settled, properly trained the hotel staff in detection and treatment options.
With this fresh experience behind me, and with so many traveling this spring, I thought it would be a good idea for Dr. Kowles to share her ‘expert’ expertise. The following is what Dr. Kowles suggests to scout for bed bugs when checking in or staying over which we all do to help control the spread of bed bugs to your home because, they do like to travel home with you!
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 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!