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.