While bed bugs were common in the days of corn cob mattresses, they were mostly unknown to the modern world — until about fifteen years ago. Thanks to widespread use of DDT and chlordane, bed bug populations had been kept at bay for decades. But when these pesticides were discovered to have serious adverse health consequences for people, they were banned. Some experts suspect that bed bugs had actually begun to adapt to pesticides, becoming resistant to them. At the same time, air travel became cheaper, and people began traveling more. So bed bugs began to spread to places where they’d been previously eradicated.
Today, travel is the main way that homes become infested. Bed bugs crawl onto clothing and into luggage, hitchhiking their way to new destinations. Hotels are one of the main origins of bed bug infestations, but they’re also found in airplanes, trains, buses, theaters, and dormitories.
Bed bug removal is notoriously difficult! Like most pest problems, the best way to guard against bed bugs is prevention. Know what bed bugs look like and to take steps to protect yourself while traveling.
Before Leaving Home
There are a few ways you can reduce the chances of picking up these unwanted pests. First, take a hard-shelled suitcase, since it has fewer places for bed bugs to hide. Pack clothing and other items in sealable plastic bags that can remain sealed until you need to access something.
What to Look For
Bed bugs can be difficult to recognize because they go through five immature stages before reaching adulthood. Eggs and nymphs are white, so they’re extremely hard to spot. Although adults are reddish brown and about the size and shape of an apple seed, they can go without food for months, hiding out of sight. The easiest way to detect a bed bug infestation is to look for dark-colored spots that result from digesting blood, or the shedding of their outer skins.
Where to Find Bed Bugs
Bedding is a popular choice for bed bugs because it gives them easy access to unsuspecting humans. The bugs can feed while you sleep, and you won’t even realize what’s happened until you wake up with inflamed, itchy, red, or blistered bites. Some people won’t know they’ve been bitten for several days, since some reactions don’t appear immediately.
Bed bugs often live in the ribbing of the mattress or behind the headboard, where it’s easy to escape detection. But bedding isn’t the only place that bed bugs hang out. Other common locations are in the grooves of a night table, in the cushion of the bedside chair, or even in the carpeting.
What to Do to Prevent Bed Bugs From Going Home With You
Bed bugs move quickly and can easily migrate from wherever they’re currently living into the zipper ridges of your suitcase, into your handbag, or into your clothing. If you following these steps, you can identify a bed bug problem before the bugs have a chance to latch onto your items and ride home with you.
- When you walk into a hotel room, place your suitcase onto the bathroom floor — not on the carpet or on the bed.
- Next, conduct your search. First, pull back the mattress cover and look at the mattress ribbing, under the mattress edges, and on the box spring. Scan for any dark spots, droppings, or castings. Then check behind the headboard. Next, examine the nightstand and upholstered furniture. If everything looks clean, an infestation is unlikely.
- If you’re especially cautious, you can keep your suitcase on a coffee table and avoid hanging clothes in a closet that may be harboring bugs.
If you see evidence of bed bugs, it’s best to find another hotel. However, if you decide to stay, be sure to ask for a room that’s not adjacent to, above, or below the infested room — depending on how the hotel is constructed, bedbugs can move through cracks in the baseboards, wall sockets, or drywall into adjacent rooms.
When You Arrive Home
Even if you didn’t find evidence of an infestation in your hotel, it’s a good idea to examine your suitcase when you get home. Vacuum it thoroughly, and wash clothing that wasn’t kept in plastic bags on a high heat setting if possible.
How to Tell If You’ve Been Bitten
The most common reactions to bed bug bites are itching, swelling, and the development of red welts. However, as we mentioned, these signs may not appear for several days. Bites often occur in lines of multiple marks, since the bugs may need to bite several times in order to find a blood vessel, and they’ll migrate if the person they’re feeding on shifts in their sleep.
If you’re bitten, don’t scratch the bites to avoid the area becoming infected. If you experience a rash or an infection, you should seek medical help.
Bed Bug Removal
There’s no need to avoid traveling, and taking these precautions should protect you from any bed bug problems. But if you do experience an infestation, you’ll want to bring in a professional who can ensure that all the bugs, in all the life stages, are eliminated. Putman Pest specializes in bed bug removal! Please give us a call at (864) 292-1919, and we’ll answer any questions you have.