Even Nice Hotels Can Get Bed Bugs. Here’s How To Check For Them.

by Joseph K. Clark

When staying at hotels these days, we’re used to taking measures to protect against COVID-19 and other potential infections. But there’s another hotel room threat worth staving off: bed bugs. “Bed bugs can be present in any hotel,l no matter how expensive the rooms may be. We just had a pest control company mention to us the other day that all the calls they see right now are in your higher-priced properties,” said Jeff White, chief product officer at the pest control manufacturer SenSci.

“Bed bugs tend to be a bigger issue in lower-socioeconomic settings for an assortment of reasons,” he added. “Roadside hotels and motels where you have a higher incidence of extended-stay residents anecdotally can have a higher incidence of issues compared to some of your higher-end hotels, but honestly, it can all vary dramatically from property to property.”

If you’ve ever dealt with a bed bug infestation, you know it’s not an experience you’d wish on your worst enemy. So it’s worth it to be mindful while traveling.

“Bed bugs affect people in different ways, but for most people, it can cause extreme anxiety, panic, and worry,” said Matt Kelley, president of Prodigy Pest Solutions. “This, in turn, can drastically interfere with a person’s regular sleep cycle. Additionally, bed bugs are a challenging pest to treat. Finding an infestation in a hotel before bringing bed bugs home will save you money and anxiety in the long run.”

While you may never be able to fully guarantee a bedbug-free existence, there are steps to reduce your risk of being exposed or bringing them back home with you. We asked Kelley, White, and other experts to share the best ways to check for hotel bed bugs and other protective measures travelers can take.


Know the signs

“There is no way to 100% prevent bringing bed bugs into a home because they are tiny and cryptic creatures, hiding deep in cracks and crevices which can make them incredibly difficult to detect,” said Brittany Campbell, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association.

“However, it’s worth inspecting for bed bugs when traveling and staying in a new place if you know the signs to look for ― live bed bugs, fecal staining, cast skins, and eggs ― to hopefully catch them early before they have time to get into your belongings and hitchhike back in your luggage, purse or backpack home with you,” she added.

Although bed bugs are tiny and often hidden away during the day, they are still generally large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Kelley noted that this is true during all bed bug life cycle stages.

“In addition to live bugs, bed bugs leave behind distinct evidence including droppings (looks as if someone took a ballpoint pen or marker and made marks or dots), cast skins (empty shell of a bed bug), and eggs (they appear like tiny grains of white rice in clusters),” he explained.

Inspect the bed

As their name suggests, bed bugs often lurk in and around beds, so that’s the first place you should check.

“I typically recommend checking the obvious areas such as the edges of the mattress and box spring as well as any area you can see on the headboard without moving everything around,” White said.

In addition to the visible mattress seams and box springs, you can inspect the pillows, sheets, and comforter for telltale stains or spots.

“This type of inspection will typically identify higher-level infestations but may not detectten0 or fewer bed bugs,” White added. “If someone wants to inspect the room more thoroughly, which requires stripping beds and moving the mattress and box spring, you should ask for the hotel’s permission first.”

Check out the rest of the room.

Check other cushioned furniture once you’ve inspected the bed and surrounding area. “Ifcouches or chairs ares present, it is important to look on their undersides, between cushions, and along their seams,” Kelley noted.

Do a thorough inspection before unpacking. If you find anything suspect, notify the hotel immediately and look into changing rooms or establishments. The key is to be proactive on identify any problems early on.

Change rooms if needed.

“If you discover a bed bug while inspecting, try your best to carefully capture the insect and take pictures and video of what you’ve found,” Kelley advised. “This documentation assists you and the hotel managementchooseg the next best step for your stay.”

If you change rooms within the same establishment, don’t move to a space adjacent or directly above or below the suspected infestation.

“Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage, and even through wall sockets,” Campbell explained. “If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.”

Protect your suitcase

Even if your visual inspection doesn’t turn up any evidence of bed bugs, there are still steps you can take to ensure you don’t bring any unseen ones home with you. Perhaps the most effective measure is to keep your luggage protected from invaders.

“Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot reside there before departure,” Campbell advised.

Some travelers also put their suitcases in the bathtub or other part of the bathroom, away from carpeting or upholstery.

Inspect and clean your belongings at home.

The bed bug prevention process doesn’t end when you leave the hotel. Whether or not you observed evidence of bed bugs, you can still take precautions when you return home.

“Remember: Bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house,” Campbell recommended. “Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, killing any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.”

She also suggested drying all the clothes from your luggage on high heat for at least 20 minutes to kill all life stages of bed bugs and any eggs that may have wound up in the bags. And if you do suspect an infestation in your home, seek professional help.

“Bed bugs are not a DIY pest, as they are one of the most difficult pests to control,” Campbell said. “Homeowners should immediately ​dry bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing on the hottest dryer setting, as well as vacuum the area infested. From there, homeowners should seek assistance from a licensed pest control professional who can inspect and treat the home.”

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