Spring break is coming and many families and students will be traveling. Bed bug infestations have been increasingly reported at hotels, resorts, cruise ships and hostels across the country. Bed bugs carried in by one traveler infest a hotel room and go home with the next guest. You can even pick up the noxious pests on airplanes, trains, buses and taxis if you’re unlucky enough to take a seat recently vacated by an infested person.
Adept hitchhikers, bed bugs are easily transported, usually unwittingly. “Specifically, what they are looking for is a small, enclosed, tightly packed place. They like little nooks and crannies and crevices. That’s where they like to hide, and areas inside of people’s suitcases often form that kind of a perfect environment,” Bill Frank, an epidemiologist with the Arizona Department of Health Services, told CBS News in Phoenix.
Bed bugs are one souvenir you don’t want to bring home from your spring vacation. Follow these tips to keep your spring break bed bug-free:
- Inspect mattresses thoroughly for dark dots and smears at seams and welts.
- Check sheets for tiny brown or reddish dots.
- Look for brown spots around electrical outlets.
- Look for rust-colored stains behind headboards.
- Keep suitcases on a rack and wrap in large trashbags.
I remember the first time my daughter brought home the dreaded lice letter. There were lice in her classroom. It meant wrapping coats and bookbags in plastic, nightly combings looking for nits, warnings about sharing hairbands, a moratorium on sleepovers. Lice were being spread by everything from language lab headphones to Little League batting helmets. My neighbor’s daughter brought them home from the movie theater.
It didn’t matter how clean your house was, how often you bathed and washed your hair or how diligently you kept up with the wash. If you sat where a lice-infected person had just been, the little critters crawled onto your body. They didn’t really hurt you, just itched a lot; but the ICK factor was major! And the amount of work it took to get rid of them was a nightmare.
It’s the same with bed bugs. If you grab a taxi, sit in a theater seat, catch a plane, hop on a bus, take a seat in the classroom, squeeze into a subway or stay in a hotel that has just been visited by a bed bug-infected person, chances are you’ll be itching soon yourself. Like lice, bed bugs won’t kill you, don’t live on filth and spread even faster. It’s the ICK factor that will turn your world upside down.
Legendary stories of bed bugs morphing into super bed bugs that sneer and defiantly stare when confronted by powerful pesticides may not be filling the Internet (at least not presently) but blogs and articles have been focusing on the terrifying prospect of bed bugs becoming resistant to our prized pesticides.
Some claim that the pesticides are actually aiding the enemy and have produced pesticide resistance bed bugs. Is this true? Probably not. What actually happens, a few lucky bed bugs are naturally resistant to a particular pesticide and manage to survive the battle with the bug killer. Their cohorts were not fortunate enough to have been born with the genetically made protection and they are destroyed by the pesticide. The disputed pesticide has been wrongfully accused of creating super durable bed bugs. The bug killer should be praised for removing the vast majority of the bed bugs and not blamed for creating insecticide resistant bed bugs.
Unfortunately, the beg bugs that have the natural resistance to a particular pesticide mate with other beg bugs and the genetic resistance is given to their multitude of offspring. Soon a thriving population of bed bugs, resistant to a prestigious pesticide is formed. What to do? Use another pesticide or another strategy. The battle must go on.
Bed bug-sniffing dogs are the latest weapon in the bed bug-fighting arsenal. But how do you know whether “Killer” really knows his stuff? If you’re considering hiring a “bed bug dog,” exercise a little caution and common sense.
The average dog has 200 to 250 million scent receptors in its nose; a man has only 5 million. A dog’s nasal membranes cover about 7 square meters, compared to a human’s puny half meter. A dog’s scenting ability is so sensitive it can smell things that can’t be detected by the most sensitive scientific instruments. Its sensitivity to odors is 10 to 100 times greater than man’s, depending on the dog and its training.
And that’s the key. Any dog can be billed as a bed bug hunter and how would we nose-challenged humans know the difference? The National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association has begun certifying bed bug dogs. Before you hire, ask:
- Is the dog certified?
- Can it differentiate between living and dead bugs?
- Can it sniff out eggs?
- How are the dog’s findings validated?
Remember, finding bed bugs is just the first step. Exterminating them is what’s important.
After you paid a few hundred dollars to stay at a posh hotel in New York City don’t be surprised if you’re passed by a beagle in the hallway. He’s not looking for snacks or for human attention; he’s looking for bed bugs.
Due to the infestation of bed bugs in New York City, the services of these knights in shining fur are in more demand by hotels than the services of clever concierges. Hotels are particularly susceptible to bed bugs due to international travelers unknowingly providing free transportation for these tiny tourists in their suitcases.
The sultans of sniffing receive training similar to their cohorts involved in drugs and bomb detection. Bed bug sniffing dogs are more effective than their human counterparts at detecting bed bugs. However, they won’t destroy the bed bugs and their eggs; they leave the dirty work for their human underlings. Since they have no concept of money they work for treats and the labor savings is passed on to the customer.
The dogs can investigate a room in about two minutes. If a beagle enters your hotel room and barks or swats with his paw this translates to: “Oh the horror! The horror!” Bed bugs are lurking.