Combatting bed bugs ahead of travel season

A nightmare for guests and hotel managers alike, bed bugs are biting into business – in more ways than one. A bed bug sighting is the number one reason a guest would switch hotels immediately.


By Alice Sinia

A nightmare for guests and hotel managers alike, bed bugs are biting
into business – in more ways than one. A bed bug sighting is the number one
reason a guest would switch hotels immediately, so it comes as no surprise that
these blood sucking insects can damage a hotel’s reputation and bottom line. Especially
in the era of social media and online reviews, news of just one bed bug
sighting in a hotel can travel fast.

A recent U.S. study conducted by
Orkin and market research agency The Bantam Group found that 40 per cent of hotels
surveyed had treated for bed bugs in the last month. On top of that, the
average cost of a single bed bug incident was over $6,000. These numbers add
up, and with travel season around the corner, hotels need to be vigilant in
their bed bug defense by looking out for bed bug introductions and proactively
combatting infestations.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent bed bugs from being introduced
to a building, which is why these bugs are so common in hotels. While other
pests like cockroaches, flies and rodents are often a sign of poor sanitation,
bed bugs are not. In fact, regardless of status or background, anyone – guests,
housekeeping staff or management – can bring bed bugs inside on their clothes
and belongings.

Once inside, the bed bugs reproduce at an alarming rate, and an
introduction can turn into an infestation in a matter of weeks. While there’s
no way to keep these bugs from getting in the hotel, there are steps that
management and housekeeping can take to prevent establishment and widespread

Identifying a Bed Bug

First, it’s important to know how to identify a bed bug and the signs of
bed bug activity. Adults bed bugs are flat and reddish-brown. Wingless insects,
bed bugs are oval shaped and about the size of an apple seed. After a meal,
they might appear more swollen and red in colour.

Young bed bugs (nymphs)
resemble adults but are light coloured and about the size of a sesame seed. While
you or your housekeeping staff might spot a live bed bug, it’s more likely that
you will see these other red flags:

Stains: After feeding,
bed bugs return to their hiding places and leave behind black to brown stains
as they go. You are most likely to find these on sheets and mattresses,
especially around the seams.

Case skins: As young bed
bugs grow, they shed their skin. These skins are translucent and are usually
found in clusters around mattress seams, box springs, headboards, baseboards
and other areas bed bugs might hide.

Handling Bed Bug

Housekeeping staff are the first line of defense, as they can help spot
a bed bug infestation early – before it gets out of hand or noticed by a guest.
To proactively defend against bed bugs, establish clear bed bug protocols that
include inspecting guest rooms every time the room is turned over.

Train your
staff to look for signs of bed bugs as they change the sheets and clean up the
rooms. Be sure to inspect along mattress seams and mattress tags as well. To
help protect your mattresses from a potential infestation, use mattress
encasements in all the rooms. Encasements will help avoid discarding mattresses
and even help your staff spot signs of bed bug activity.

If evidence of bed bugs is found, the next steps you and your staff take
are crucial to keeping the infestation under control:

Leave the room as you found it and call a pest
management provider immediately. Leaving the room untouched helps a
professional diagnose the issue and helps prevent your staff from spreading the
bed bugs to other rooms.

Put the affected room out of service right away.
The bed bugs could be hiding in the adjacent rooms as well.

Communicate with your pest management provider when
they arrive. Let them know where you found evidence of bed bugs and ask them to
determine whether the infestation was new or long-standing.

Bed Bug Treatment

If your pest management provider confirms bed bugs are present in your
hotel, there are a few options for treating these nighttime menaces.
Conventional treatment involves using insecticide products to eliminate active
and residual bed bug populations, while non-chemical heat treatment raises the
temperature in the room to one in which bed bugs can no longer survive.

non-chemical solutions include vacuuming and using steam treatment. Your pest
management provider can review these options in detail and help you decide
which is best for your property.

At the end of the day, it’s not worth the risk when it comes to bed
bugs. In addition to professional treatment, you may need to dispose of soft
goods like mattresses and pillows if an infestation is found and left
unaddressed. So, be as proactive as you can and inspect for bed bugs regularly
to catch a problem early.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is
Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing
on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. For more
information, email Alice Sinia at or visit

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