Running a business in the hospitality industry is a tough task, and when pests are added to the equation, it can get even more challenging and costly.
Like it or not, pests are a common problem among many U.S. hotels and the problem is only getting worse with the proliferation of bed bugs in many parts of the country. In a 2015 survey of pest control companies conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, hotels ranked third as the most common location for a bed bug infestation.
Apart from causing both minor and major deterioration to a property, the mere presence of pests can deliver a devastating blow to a hotel’s reputation. It is imperative that hotels take the necessary steps to prevent these pests before they become a problem. Below are the most common hotel pests and actionable tips to prevent infestations for each.
Common Hotel Pests
Mice, rats, cockroaches, flies, and bed bugs are among the most common hotel pests. Accessibility to food, frequent turnover of travelers, and inadequate preventative measures create an environment where hotels are at an increased risk of attracting infestations. Below are ways to detect each of these pests early on and a few tips to control an infestation should one occur on a hotel’s premises.
Rats and mice are not just household pests. They also like to check into hotels and lurk in the shadows and corners of the establishment, particularly in places with easy access to food stores. Rodents are capable of significant property damage as they gnaw through electrical equipment and fixtures or damage walls. Aside from property concerns, rodent infestations pose a serious threat to human health in the form of various diseases such as Toxoplasmosis, Lyme, Leptospirosis, and Salmonellosis. Furthermore, rats can carry a number of other known pests such as mites, lice, fleas, and ticks into a hotel.
The most important tip for rodents (or any other pest, for that matter) is to train cleaning staff on how to spot the early signs of an infestation. A hotel’s cleaning crew spends the most time in each room. If they spot something suspicious, there should be a predefined system in place where management can be quickly informed and take appropriate action.
Thankfully, rats and mice leave obvious evidence of their presence. They’ll leave behind droppings, urine stains, and smudge marks around rooms and hallways. When everyone else is fast asleep, rats and mice tend to be more active in the walls, producing gnawing and squeaking sounds.
Rodent Control Tips
If these signs appear, hotel management should secure food stores in the kitchen, hotel restaurant, and the food storage area. Seal off all possible points that could lead into the hotel such as cracks, vents, screens, and windows. Make sure that all food stocks are kept in airtight containers and that these are checked from time to time. Check the hotel surroundings for garbage or other foodstuff that could be attracting the rodents.
While a few snap traps might work for smaller infestations, larger infestations will require a more robust approach. Before contacting an exterminator, take note of all verified sightings and actions taken against the rodents prior to calling. Rely on professionals to use rodenticides, as these can be dangerous, especially if they’re placed in areas with guest access.
Cockroaches and Flies
The mere sight of a single fly hovering in a dining area or a cockroach crawling on a wall can severely damage a guest’s impression of the property. Flies are attracted to food odors while cockroaches are drawn to decaying matter and food. These insects can easily get into an establishment by hitching a ride on infested luggage or through small cracks or openings.
Since they feed on decaying matter and live on filth, cockroaches and flies carry viruses and microorganisms that can cause serious diseases. Cockroaches are carriers of bacteria like E. Coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Flies on the other hand, can be carriers of fungi, parasitic worms, and cholera.
Detecting Cockroaches and Flies
Both flies and cockroaches are capable of multiplying rapidly over a short period of time. A single insect is all it takes to start a pest infestation. Therefore, it is important to appropriately train the hotel’s cleaning crew to spot possible red flags of cockroach or fly infestation.
Flies are much easier to detect compared to cockroaches. Flies will congregate where there is food or garbage such as kitchen and dining areas, while cockroaches are better at hiding and coming out during the nighttime to find scraps of food. During the daytime, cockroaches usually hide inside cracks, crevices, and underneath furniture.
The key to spotting cockroaches is to pay special attention to the dark and damp areas of a hotel’s kitchens and bathrooms (e.g., underneath sinks and refrigerators). Black secretion stains and droppings that resemble coffee grounds are signs of roaches.
Preventing Cockroach and Fly Infestations
Cockroaches and flies need to be eliminated as soon as possible to maintain a pleasant living environment for guests. Management should continuously train the cleaning staff to identify key signs of an infestation. Other best practices include: discarding food leftovers, cleaning up spills and peelings in the kitchen or dining areas, and properly covering trash bins. Using airtight containers is also a good way to deny cockroaches access to food.
UV light traps are the most commonly employed solutions for eliminating flies inside commercial establishments. Place traps in areas where flies are visible most of the time and along windows.
Cockroaches can be eliminated in various ways. The most common methods include aerosol sprays and bait stations. Consult an exterminator prior to taking any action as untrained pest control can make an infestation worse.
As a preventative measure, lay down cockroach traps underneath refrigerators as a method to monitor any active infestations. Most are inexpensive and can help catch an infestation before it has the chance to expand. Lay a few traps around the hotel’s kitchen and check them weekly.
Due to increased traveling and less effective pesticides, bed bugs infestations have soared in recent years. Various tools such as the Bed Bug Registry have been created for the sole purpose of reporting bed bugs found in apartments and hotels, which makes preventative measures even more critical in maintaining a property’s reputation.
While the CDC maintains that bed bugs do not pose a serious threat to human health, as they do not transmit disease, the severity of their bites can vary from person to person as well as cause secondary infections if the bites are not cleaned and taken care of. Bed bugs count on humans for their daily dose of blood meals, which means that they can only survive in the presence of a human host.
Early Detection of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can lay up to 12 eggs a day which makes it imperative to detect their presence in the earliest possible stage of infestation. Adult bed bugs are quite small but are visible to the naked eye. They grow to just about 5 to 7 mm in size and are usually found in beds, blankets, pillows, luggage, and furniture. Traces of blood spots on sheets, black (fecal) marks, and shed bug skin are common signs. Apart from the mattresses, bed bugs usually lurk in cracks in walls, outlet wall plates, and tables or chairs near the bed.
Training cleaners to spot signs of a bed bug infestation is critical to early detection and removal.
Bed Bug Control Tips
When it comes to bed bug removal, the only solution is to consult an exterminator. Bed bug removal is a very delicate procedure only made worse by the fact that hotels make it very easy for bed bugs to spread quickly onto new hosts in adjacent rooms. If a guest brings bed bugs into a hotel and doesn’t leave with them, the bed bugs will begin looking for a new host somewhere else. This is how bed bugs spread.
To resolve a bed bug infestation, pest control companies deploy sophisticated equipment, which allows them to superheat a room to at least 131° Fahrenheit/55° Celsius—hot enough to kill adult bugs and their eggs.
As a preventative measure, hotel owners should use mattress and box spring encasements to protect beds from infestations. These can save hotels thousands of dollars in disposing of infested mattresses and make the bed bug removal process slightly easier.
About the Author
Shane Dutka is the founder of Pest Strategies, a website resource providing guides and articles on pest removal best practices.