37 Things You Need to Know (and do) about Bed Bugs

 From the moment you enter the hospitality industry – and that’s what you are doing when you operate a vacation rental – your property becomes susceptible to bed bugs.  It’s a simple fact, and not one to avoid because it’s an ‘icky’ topic, or because your place is super-clean and you feel it could never happen to you.  Bed bugs can impact any location that has a transient population and the more popular your vacation home is, the higher the risk of infestation.

Educate yourself about bed bugs
Understanding some simple facts of bed bug prevention, management and control can deliver the knowledge you need to reduce the risk, and manage a guest complaint.  For example knowing that bed bugs are "hitch-hikers” and dependent upon man to travel from place to place should be enough to motivate any owner to implement a regular check
“Bed bugs are an “equal opportunity infester”. They do not discriminate between properties based upon location, type or quality as might the discerning vacation or business traveler. Due simply to their nature, logistics and other factors, every lodging location and multi-family property is subject to bed bug infestation.”   Paul J. Bello -  PJB Pest Management Consulting
  1. Bed bugs are "hitch-hikers” and dependent upon man to travel from place to place, so it’s possible you or your property management staff could  transport them bugs to other rooms in your locations or even back to your own home
  2. Don’t rely on a guest reporting bed bug problems as your sole first alert system of a bed bug problem
  3. Bed bugs can’t climb smooth surfaces such as glass, some plastics and other such surfaces, however they are tenacious and
  4. Bed bugs can survive cold temperatures very well but are less resistant to heat
  5. Bed bug eggs can be about the same size as one stitch of sewn mattress fabric
  6. While accessible bed bug eggs may be removed by careful vacuuming, it is unlikely that a significant amount of hidden bed bug eggs, if any, will be removed using a vacuum alone.
  7. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4 of an inch long by about 3/16 inch wide
  8. Bed bug eggs are coated with a sticky substance and once deposited by the female the eggs become glued in place to hidden areas which can make them difficult to find
  9. Getting rid of them yourself is possible but it takes a lot of work, knowledge and experience over an extended period of time.  An infestation is better handed over to professional pest controllers
  10. Bed bug litigation is on the rise. Prevention and action is better than inaction or denial and can save stress, time and a lot of money.
Prevention is the best measure
 Although there may be nothing you can do about an infiltration of bed bugs from an outside source – i.e. your guests, there’s a lot that can be done to prevent them becoming an issue:
  1. Avoid buying used mattresses unless you can get them heat treated
  2. Check used bedroom furniture thoroughly before placing in a bedroom location
  3. If supplying linens, wash and dry them on a hot cycle
  4. Launder comforters and blankets regularly using a hot cycle
  5. Implement a frequent inspection program
  6. Purchase a good quality fully enclosed mattress protector
  7. Use a professional  steam cleaner for carpets regularly
  8. Vacuuming alone may not be sufficient to remove an infestation however mattresses should be done frequently as a preventative measure
  9. Buy a commercial ‘bed bug interceptor’
  10. Vacuum upholstered furniture thoroughly – turning upside down to vacuum the underneath
How you can find out if you have bed bugs
Bello recommends a pro-active, well planned monitoring program to detect bed bug activity as preferable to a non-existent program that relies on haphazard discovery of bed bugs.  Look out for the following:
  1. The top hiding places for bed bugs are the mattress, box spring and bed frame
  2. Bed bugs will also hide in head boards so check the crevices and cracks
  3. Yes, bed bugs poop and this will stain a mattress with dark spots – this is the most common sign of bed bug activity.
  4. They shed their skins – pale in color and papery
  5. After passing on to a better life, bed bugs leave carcasses as evidence of their occupation.
  6. In general,  more bed bugs are found toward the head of the bed than toward the foot of the bed
  7. Guests might let you know they have bites – common bug (mosquito and biting fly) bites are often confused with bed bug bites so before panicking, check for actual evidence in the bedrooms.
  8. Use a magnifying glass – go for a slightly better quality that the $1.99 Wal-Mart variety – with a good quality
  9. You will need an LED flashlight with good batteries to help in the search
  10. Put in place a regular checking program – at least once a month
What to do if you find you have an infestation
Let’s look at the worst case scenario and you have a frantic call from guests in the property to say they are covered in bites and are totally freaked out, wanting you to do something immediately.  The main goal is to ensure that guests do not take any little travelers home with them
  1. Stay calm.  You have the situation and can only deal with it the best you can
  2. Contact a local pest control company to go and identify this is a bed bug infestation.  In many cases, they are not, but it is better to get a professional in to let you know one way or the other
  3. A good pest control company will talk through next steps with your guests
  4. Clean clothes should be run through a hot dryer
  5. Other clothes should be put through a hot wash
  6. Once clothing and other garments have been washed and dried, put them in a black plastic bag along with a bed bug strip for 24 hours.
  7. Travel bags may be infested so should be thoroughly checked and if necessary, replaced
As with many aspects of our vacation rental business, pre-planning is the key to reducing stress, and knowing how you will handle a situation should it occur should be part of your overall emergency plan. It’s uncomfortable, time consuming and expensive should an infestation occur, but at least you will be able to deal with the situation with a good knowledge base.

Thanks to Paul Bello of PJB Pest Management Consulting for the learning I’ve done on the topic of bed bugs.