How Bed Bugs Spread

Bed bugs are prolific breeders. In their brief one-year lifespan, they can lay as many as 500 eggs. It doesn’t take long for a little problem to become a major infestation. Once in a building they can spread from room to room on people’s clothing, on mail delivery and housekeeping carts or inside briefcases, luggage or backpacks. They move easily through wall voids, electrical and plumbing conduits, vents and ducts, infecting first the rooms next door and above and below the originally infected room. It’s easy to see how bed bugs carried in by an employee or visitor can quickly become a major headache, particularly in apartment buildings, hotels, condos and businesses.

The recent bed bug suit at Fox News Channel (see our May 30 post) is a case in point. The bed bug infestation there likely started with one individual bringing bed bugs into one room in the building. In a place where employees and visitors come and go daily, it can be incredibly difficult to eradicate bed bugs. If an infested room is treated, the little blood suckers simply migrate to another room. They can be transported home by employees who then bring them back to work with them the next day. In fact, in a similar case a persistent infestation at one company was eventually tracked back to an employee’s home. It wasn’t until the bed bugs were eradicated from this staffer’s home that the problem at his workplace could be successfully eliminated.

Next time: How to eliminate bed bugs

Don’t Let Bed Bugs Spoil Your Vacation

With the end of the school year in sight, families are digging out the maps and starting to plan their summer vacations. Students on spring break are getting in one last fling before final exams. Americans are traveling across the country and sleeping in beds far from home. Unfortunately, some of those beds will already be inhabited by an unexpected and unwelcome guest – bedbugs.

The person who slept in your hotel room bed last night might have left you an unpleasant gift: tiny insects that hide in and near beds, creeping out at night to feed on human blood. Reports of bed bug infestations are increasing at hotels, motels, resorts, cruise ships and hostels across America. Adept hitchhikers, bed bugs are easily transported. Carried in by one traveler, they can infest a hotel room and go home with the next guest before they are discovered. You can even pick up these noxious pests on airplanes, trains, buses and taxis if you’re unlucky enough to take a seat recently vacated by an infested person.

Bed bugs are one souvenir you don’t want to bring home from vacation. When you travel, carefully inspect the room for signs of bed bugs before bringing your belongings into the room, advises New York City bed bug expert Douglas Stern. Here’’s what to look for:

• Pull back bedspreads and blankets and check the sheets for tiny brown or reddish spots and smears, the fecal and blood stains that indicate bed bug activity. Inspect mattresses thoroughly for active bugs and stains, particularly at seams and welts.

• Look for brown spots and rust-colored stains around electrical outlets, air duct grilles, behind headboards, on bedside furniture and lamps.

• Check for whitish nymph molts and old exoskeletons at the edges of carpets and along baseboards.

If you see any indication of bed bugs, ask for another room or go to a different hotel. Bed bugs travel easily through wall voids and ducts, so don’t accept a room adjacent to or directly above or below the suspect room.

During your stay, Stern offers these tips for keeping your vacation bed bug free:

• Keep suitcases off the floor on a rack.

• Don’t leave belongings on the beds or floor. Bring plastic trash bags to keep belongings safe.

• When you get home, wash clothes in hot water and dry on high heat. Vacuum suitcases and store away from the bedroom. Wrap the vacuum bag in plastic and dispose of outside immediately.

For more information on bed bugs and what to do if you get them, visit the bedbug expert Stern Environmental Group.