Bed bugs are a year-round threat to hotel properties and other businesses in the hospitality industry, but the start of the summer season kicks the risk of pest issues into high gear as travel increases for people across the country and around the world. Even the best-maintained properties can’t guarantee beg bugs remain out of their buildings, as the summer’s influx of guests may unknowingly bring in pests that have stowed away in their luggage. While the appearance of pests may be nearly inevitable, preparedness and vigilance are the best weapons for ensuring a small bed bug problem doesn’t escalate into a full-blown infestation.
Take Preventative Action
A variety of discreet products are available to help properties proactively address the risk of a major bed bug issue. These products range in function from killing bugs outright to inhibiting their ability to feed and reproduce. While these products should be used all year long, they’re especially important as the volume of guests increases during the summer.
While effective, preventative products can’t fully guarantee bed bugs don’t make their home at a property. A hotel’s best line of defense is the staff that cleans and maintains guests’ rooms. They’re a hotel’s eyes in the field, and with a little training and education, they can be a hotel’s best chance to catch the problem early. Thorough inspections of commonly affected areas such as seams and tags on mattresses, box springs, cushions, and other upholstered surfaces are the best ways to identify the presence of bed bugs in the building. Maintenance staff should know where to look and should be aware of a few telltale signs they’re most likely to encounter.
- Bed bug droppings resemble markings from a pen or fine-tipped marker and most commonly appear as spots or streaks on fabric surfaces. Droppings may also appear as small specks on hard surfaces, though that sign can be less common due to the propensity for bed bugs to hide in a fabric’s folds and crevices.
- Beg bugs shed their skins as they grow throughout their life cycle. These cast skins can vary in color from tan to brown and are fairly easy to identify because they look like small insect shells.
- The bugs themselves can be more challenging to recognize but are often visible upon thorough inspection. Adult bed bugs can grow up to 5 millimeters in length, making them easier to recognize, while bed bug nymphs can vary in size depending on their stage of development and are often pale tan in color, making them more difficult—though not impossible—to spot.
Once bed bugs are identified within a guestroom or common area of the building, it’s important to contact the hotel’s pest management partner right away. Do not move the affected furniture or items to other parts of the building, as this greatly increases the risk of them spreading. A pest management professional will treat all items in the affected area or areas at once, making sure detected and undetected bed bugs are killed before they can spread any further.
Consult with Partners
In addition to treating an existing problem, a good pest management partner can also provide advice on preventative steps and staff training. A thorough integrated pest management plan, commonly referred to as an IPM, is a crucial part of stopping small problems before they become major issues. A hotel’s pest management professional can recommend preventative products that best fit a property’s unique needs and can provide materials that aid in training staff to recognize those common signs that indicate the presence of bed bugs.
They’re also a valuable resource for advising on the best treatment options to eliminate the pests while minimizing disruption to a hotel’s operations. While traditional chemical treatments are still a common way to treat the problem, alternatives such as heat-based treatments can be just as effective and help get a room back into service more quickly. Additionally, heat-based treatments are effective in eliminating both bed bugs and eggs in a single application, while more conventional chemical treatments may take a series of applications to thoroughly address the problem.
About the Author
Eric Braun is a board-certified entomologist and manager for Rentokil Steritech’s bed bug line of business.