Bed bug infestations are on the rise, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). In NPMA’s 2018 Bugs Without Borders survey, a majority of pest control professionals agreed that bed bug service work and the prevalence of these pests are both increasing. Brittany Campbell, Ph.D., BCE, is a staff entomologist and research scientist with NPMA. Campbell says that a variety of factors are likely behind the growth of bed bug infestations in the United States and around the world.
“Increased international travel is definitely one factor, but also the prevalence of insecticide resistance in bed bug populations, the movement of second-hand furniture, and changes in pest control practices,” Campbell explains. “Bed bugs are known to be widely resistant to multiple types of insecticides used for their control and this is considered the main reason why bed bugs made such a comeback.”
Not only are bed bugs more ubiquitous, these pests are also among the most difficult to control. “First, their secretive behavior of hiding deep in cracks and crevices and small size makes them difficult to find to get a treatment in an area that will actually impact a bed bug,” Campbell says. “Second, resistance is a huge issue because many of the products available aren’t very effective and don’t kill bed bugs as they may claim. Third, they reproduce rather quickly—a bed bug population can double in 16 days and quickly grow out of control.”
In the hotel industry, Campbell says that there is no full-proof way to prevent bed bugs from invading a property. “It’s important to understand that bed bugs do not discriminate and can be brought into any home or hotel,” Campbell says. “Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers, easily getting a ride on people’s luggage, purses, and other belongings and can be brought in at any time into a hotel with no way to stop bed bug entry.”
Because these pests are difficult to stamp out and infestations can rapidly expand, hotels should take proactive measures to minimize bed bug movement and the growth of an infestation, Campbell says, like adding mattress encasements, monitors, and dust applications in wall voids. In addition, hotels should establish a bed bug action plan and ensure that staff are well-trained on the signs of bed bugs and can identify them early before the problem becomes worse.
“Hotels should make sure they have a plan in place for bed bug infestations and work with their guests to move them quickly into a new room and accommodate any bed bug issues,” Campbell adds. “They should also have a pest control company work with them to regularly inspect rooms and clear rooms from any infestations that may be established.”
Since the early 2000s when bed bug issues began to come back in force, Campbell says the industry’s knowledge of these pests has grown significantly. “Pest control companies now know how to better handle these pests and how to eliminate them more quickly,” Campbell explains. Looking ahead, Campbell anticipates more proactive treatments will come online in the industry so that hotels can respond to bed bugs before infestations are established.