A Traveler’s Guide to Bed Bug Prevention: Part One

A Short History of Bed Bug Infestations in the U.S.

In the years before 1950, bed bugs presented a common household problem. Then came the widespread application of persistent insecticides. Sightings of bed bugs joined the class of dinosaur sightings. For the most part, NC homeowners, as well as the rest of the nation, enjoyed a time of rest.

Then came the resurgence. Technology merged with an increase in household incomes. Routine travel became easier and cheaper. Thus, came the renaissance of bed bug infestations.

Timing of the bed bug resurgence traces back to the 1990s. Increases in construction of apartments, dormitories and hotels introduced new pest-related opportunities. Students went back and forth between home and dormitory. Family visits to Disneyland included various stops along the way – stops that often involved an overnight stay in a roadside motel. And North Carolina travelers joined the group.

Today, social media has made the concern over bed bugs even more prevalent. As travelers share photos online of bed bugs they find during their trips, more and more Americans are concerned about bed bugs returning with them once they head back to their residences.

No matter how clean a motel or hotel appears, bed bugs can still infest the rooms. Bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt, but rather are drawn to the presence of humans as their food source. Bed bugs are savvy hitchhikers and with a hotel’s constant guest turnaround, there is a significant risk of bed bugs infesting a hotel seemingly overnight.

Bed bugs tend to stay concealed in small cracks and crevices, making them hard to detect. However, if you are vigilant about checking for the common signs of bed bugs, you can avoid staying in rooms with active infestations.

In this article, the Carolina Pest Management Charlotte bed bug control team discusses how you can prevent travel-related bed bug infestations.

Bed Bug Facts

Bed bugs are small insects that can infest both homes and hotels seemingly overnight. Since they can travel from place to place along with luggage and personal goods, they are also found within public transportation systems. Bedbugs rely on blood meals for both survival and growth. A bed bug feeding will last only a few short minutes with the human host unaware since bites are painless and typically occur at night. The following facts will help you determine if bed bugs are present at your home or hotel:

  • Adult bed bugs measure approximately 1/4 inch long
  • Adult bed bugs are flat with a reddish-brown color
  • Nymphs (young bed bugs) are smaller with a translucent or yellowish-white color
  • Feeding takes place at night and the bug will bite exposed areas of the skin multiple times while the host sleeps
  • Bed bugs go through several stages from egg to adulthood and require blood to advance to each stage
  • Spend days in tight, concealed areas, including box springs, mattresses, clothing, stuffed animals, bed frames, and suitcases
  • Bed bugs can make homes in trains, buses, and airplanes
  • Bedbug bites can cause allergic reactions with symptoms that include swelling, itching, and rashes
  • A 2011 study found that bed bugs may transmit and spread the drug-resistant bacterium MRSA
  • Female bed bugs can lay an average of five to seven eggs weekly
  • On average, bed bugs produce 200 to 500 eggs in the lifespan of a single female
  • Bed bugs can live up to twelve months without food (blood)
  • 68 percent of all pest professionals stated that hotels and motels are the top places where bed bug infestations are found
  • 91 percent of guests who have seen a bed bug will not revisit the hotel
  • 1 in 5 people have encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel
  • Bedbugs have been found in all 50 states of the U.S.
  • Bed bugs are nocturnal, but can bite during the day depending on the host’s sleep schedule

North Carolina Hotel Bed Bug Prevention

Along with making sure that you stay in reputable hotels, motels and Airbnbs, you can also make use of a couple bed bug prevention tips. Before you travel, follow these steps to prevent exposing you and your family members to bed bugs:

  1. Research and Defense

Make bed bug inspection a routine travel priority. Never assume that the bed, chairs, closets or floors of a strange room are free of the problem. So, when packing for the trip, be sure to include the following tools:

  • Flashlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • Large plastic bags
  • Bed bug repellent spray

Before traveling, read online reviews about the hotel. Look for reviews that mention bed bugs in hotels and look at the date of the reviews. Calling a hotel to inquire about bed bugs isn’t likely to help since they are not likely to be upfront about any recent infestations. Check the online BedBugRegistry too. The free public database collects user-reported sightings of bed bugs at hotels and motels in North Carolina, and around the country.

  1. Ask Questions

Elimination of bed bugs is difficult to say the least, often taking two or three weeks to fully control. Just because a hotel or motel claims a bed bug treatment was done recently, that doesn’t guarantee successful extermination. Request documentation that confirms any recent site-related bed bug encounters and the steps taken to rectify the issue. If your questions aren’t answered to your satisfaction, request a refund and book a room at another establishment.

  1. Personal Inspection

Never assume a “no-risk” situation. Before carrying your belongings into any hotel, motel or dormitory room, perform a personal bed bug inspection of that room. Your room’s bathroom is a good spot to place luggage since bed bugs don’t tend to infest bathrooms. Bathrooms don’t offer up the typical hiding spots and it’s not closely located to where people sleep.

With the magnifying glass and the flashlight, look for the bed bugs or signs of any bed bug excretion, dot-like black stains, in the following areas:

  • Room corners
  • Room cracks and crevices
  • Bedding
  • Flooring
  • Furniture
  • Mattress
  • Box Spring
  • Headboard
  • Bed frame

If you find any hotel bed bugs or view bed bug excrement, notify hotel management immediately. Decide whether to relocate to another hotel or ask to be moved to another room. Be careful if you move to an adjacent room since bed bugs are known for infesting connecting rooms.

In the event you don’t find any signs of bed bugs, still take precautions. Place luggage inside of large plastic bags and seal them for the entirety of your trip. Clothing pieces should not be left lying out either at any point during the vacation. Bed bug repellent spray may be used for peace of mind during the trip. Spray around the bed frame, furniture seams, base and crown molding, headboard, and baseboard. Follow all repellent instructions and take any precautions for pet and human exposure.

  1. The Morning After

Last thing you want is to take the infestation back to your Charlotte home. Even if all checks came in clean, examine yourself on the morning after. Look for welts, blisters and other signs of bed bug bite marks. Keep in mind that you may not have any visible signs of bed bug bites. Certain individuals are more likely to develop reactions than others. Bite reactions can also be delayed for up to 10 days following the attack.

Once you are ready to return home, don’t bring belongings directly back into your residence. Wash all clothing items in hot water and dry on the high heat setting. You could also use a hand steamer to treat each clothing item you plan to return home. Once you empty the suitcase at home, vacuum the inside to eliminate any potential stowaway bed bugs.

When North Carolina Travelers Return Home with Bed Bugs

Bad news. You missed the problem. A handful of bed bugs hitched a ride inside your luggage, and now the infestation is spreading all over your Charlotte home. Or perhaps it wasn’t even your travels that caused the situation. Maybe a neighbor brought them back to their home, and now your kids have brought them back to your home.

Start by spring-cleaning with a purpose. But unless you are facing the very beginning of the problem, DIY bed bug control is the wrong approach. Remember:

  • They live for months without food
  • The spread like crazy
  • Full, confirmed elimination can require weeks of study

Carolina Pest Management has been providing pest solutions in Charlotte for over 75 years. We specialize in pest control and wildlife removal in the Carolinas. If you need help eliminating bed bugs from your home, we can help! Contact us for reliable and effective Charlotte bed bug control today.