Traveling? Don’t Bring Bed Bugs Back With You

TRAVEL - hotel room Photo Credit: davidlee770924

Traveling? Don’t Bring Bed Bugs Back With You

Everyone brings home souvenirs from their vacation. But one you don’t want to unpack upon your return is a bedbug or two. Here’s what to know about these creepy-crawlies and how to avoid having them hitch a ride while you’re traveling.

What are bedbugs?

The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is a small insect about the size of an apple seed that feeds on blood. Bed bug eggs are about the size of a pinhead, pearl-white in color, and if more than five days old are marked by an eye spot. (Go here for bed bug images.)

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs a public health pest the good news is that they don’t transmit or spread disease.

How can you tell if your hotel room has bed bugs?

According to Medicinet, hotels are a prime stop for bed bugs who may have arrived via guests who have the insects in their home or picked them up at other location. They can also be found in other places as well, notes Medicinet: movie theaters, office buildings, laundries, shelters, in transportation vehicles, and other locations frequented by an ever-changing array of people.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to do a “bug sweep” of your room before you start unpacking. When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places: near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, in cracks on the bed frame and headboard, on upholstered furniture, in drawer joints and other places.

Indications of a bed bug infestation include

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses from bed bugs being crushed
  • Dark spots (bed bug excrement)
  • Eggs and eggshells and/or pale yellow skins shed by nymphs as they grow
  • Live bed bugs.

What should you do if you find bed bugs in your room?

Find what you think might be a bed bug or two? The University of Minnesota recommends notifying the front desk immediately and ask to be moved to a new room—not next door to the room where you found bed bugs. Then, do your bed bug check again. (Download U of M’s Inspecting Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs tip sheet here.)

Even if you don’t see any evidence, use luggage racks to hold your luggage rather than setting your suitcase on the bed. Other tips to keep the bugs from getting into your suitcase include putting your luggage in a large trash bag or keeping it in the bathtub during your stay. The EPA also recommends transporting your clothes to and from home in sealed plastic bags to help prevent infestation.

The EPA has downloadable bed bug cards with information about how to identify bed bugs and protect yourself from them.

What if bed bugs come home with you?

Bed bugs can move from an infested location back home from you by traveling in your luggage and on your clothing. According to the EPA, there are multiple methods (chemical and non-chemical) for controlling a bed bug infestation, and using a combination of both (often referred to as integrated pest management) can be the most effective.

If your clothing has bed bugs, heat-treat the items in a household dryer at high heat for 30 minutes, which will kill bed bugs and eggs. (Make sure the clothing can withstand a hot dryer.) Just washing your clothes might not be enough. Then store clean items in a sealed plastic bag to ensure they remain bug-free while you check the rest of your home. (Bed bugs will travel up to 20 feet from where they are hiding to feed on a host.)

If you find bed bugs elsewhere in your home, you may need to hire a professional. (Read EPA’s Preparing for Treatment Against Bed Bugs and Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control for more information.)

Even if you don’t think you had any “hitchhikers,” unpack your clothing directly into a washing machine, and if the material can handle it, wash and dry your items at a high temperature. Then inspect your luggage carefully before storing suitcases away from your bedroom, such as in the basement or garage.

For More Information

NC State Extension: Preparing Your House for Bedbug Treatments Biting and Stinging Pests

Michigan State University Extension: Preparing your home for bed bug treatmen

Photo Credit: davidlee770924


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