Bedbug Infestation Problem
The old saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is becoming an unsettling reality. Bedbug sightings are on the rise nationwide at homes, schools, hotels and motels. According to Terminix, the cities most affected have been Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Entomologists say the yearly increase in the number of bedbugs nationwide can likely be traced to the longtime ban on DDT in many countries, resistance to current pesticides and growth of international travel. But just how serious is the bedbug threat?
A Real Threat
The threat is real and serious enough to concern a large number of travelers. Entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, has yet to spot a bedbug in a hotel room, but on two occasions entomologists she was traveling with encountered infestations. The risk "is very real," she says. "Everyone who travels needs to be aware and vigilant, because self-protection is important."
It is difficult however, to determine the true scope of the problem. The difficulty stems from the fact that there is no central agency that tracks and verifies hotel bedbug reports. As a result, complaints are tracked largely through firsthand reports (click here to read one such account). But regardless of the exact scope of the infestation, there is a real problem. In a July survey of nearly 1,000 pest-management services, 70 percent said they had identified and exterminated bedbugs in a hotel during the previous year.
The problem has even reached the radar of lawmakers. A forum was recently held by lawmakers to tout a bill dubbed the "Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act," which would provide government funding for hotel inspections and contribute to research toward prevention and control. The bill was first introduced in 2009. Members of Congress were informed that in a study of 200 hotel rooms between 2002 and 2006, 25 percent were infested with the pests. With all this talk about bedbugs it is important to know how to identify bedbugs and what to do once you encounter them.
What Does A Bedbug Look Like and How Can It Harm You?
A bedbug is a rust-colored insect about the size of an apple-seed. The bugs get around by traveling with you. They can latch onto clothing, bags and suitcases. They hide in crevices and folds in material and emerge at night to snack on human blood. The bites create red, itchy welts, which normally appear within 24 to 48 hours of being bitten. But, the news isn’t all bad. The bugs don’t spread disease and their bites are painless because their saliva contains an anesthetic which numbs the skin.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Travelers should thoroughly inspect their hotel room before settling down for the night. Shine a flashlight over the room and strip the sheets from the bed to look for any dark stains of digested blood. You should also consider keeping luggage in a plastic trash bag and hanging clothing in the closet as opposed to using hotel furniture. If you do spot bedbugs, the problem should be reported to the hotel front desk immediately and you should be moved to another room. But make sure that your new room isn’t above, below or adjacent to the infested room because the bugs tend to spread to the closest areas. You also shouldn’t try to resolve the problem on your own. Killing one bedbug will not eliminate the entire problem. You should be aware that you are not in the clear even once you have arrived home. The bedbugs can fester among luggage. To prevent this, you should wash and dry all clothing in hot water and vacuum your suitcases.
Another option is to try and avoid the problem altogether with a little background research. A just-launched iPhone application called Bed Bug Alert ($1.99) allows folks to track bedbug reports within a one-block radius of any U.S. location. There is also the Bedbug Registry, a free public database for disgruntled travelers to anonymously report about bug issues at prospective hotels. Daniel Mount, a professor with Pennsylvania State University’s School of Hospitality Management, warns however that the anonymous reports can potentially be false. That hasn’t stopped the reports from having an impact though. In fact, one hotel that lost out on a 200-room group reservation, canceled because a patron was suspicious of an online review citing bedbugs.
Travelers alike, whether on a trip for business or pleasure, share the common goal of getting a good night’s sleep. Bedbugs can ruin that goal and lead to anxiety and an uncomfortable stay away from home. And infestation reports aren’t just coming from budget motels. These reports are also coming from four-star hotels. That’s the bad news. The good news however, is that by being a vigilant traveler you can effectively protect yourself against bed bugs. Following the steps above and using the resources available can help you prevent against bedbug bites. Remember good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.