Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician
As bed bug infestations continue to rise along with the number of times we travel, it’s no wonder there has been a reported increase of bed bugs in hotel rooms, especially during peak travel seasons.
These pests can be found anywhere humans are, and that includes hostels, B&Bs, motels, and the best luxury hotels worldwide. Being vigilant and knowing how to check your room is the best way to make sure a bed bug or two isn’t checking out with you.
How Common Are Bed Bugs In Hotels?
The image below gives you some idea of just how frequently these pests are found in hotels as it’s reported that 90% have been treated for bed bugs. This also shows that the hotel industry is dedicated to dealing with this problem.
Even though most hotels have preventative measures in place, hotels/motels are still one of the top 3 most common places where bed bugs are found.
Why? because there are people constantly coming and going. It takes just one person to bring in a bed bug or two from their own home to start an infestation in the hotel room.
How Do You Know If Your Hotel Room Has Bed Bugs?
Listed below are several signs to look for on the mattress, bed area, and nearby furniture that tell you if there are bed bugs in the room:
- Live bed bugs and eggs – bed bugs are tiny, reddish-brown with flat bodies. The adults look similar to an apple seed and are around 5mm in length with 6 six legs and 2 antennae.
- As well adult bed bugs, look for nymphs (baby bed bugs) and eggs, which are small but are visible if you look carefully enough.
The eggs are white, approximately 1mm in length, and are laid in cracks and crevices so they can’t be easily found.
- Bed bug shells – this is the exoskeleton that is shed during the molting stages of growth. These skins are empty and somewhat translucent but look almost the same as a live bed bug.
If the room has had a bed bug problem for a while, these will be easy to spot as they will be found clustered along the seams of the mattress, box spring, headboard, and other upholstered furniture, such as a chair.
- Blood smears and dark blood spots – lookout for these on the sheets which can be from a sleeping person rolling on and crushing the bugs.
The dark spots are bed bug excrement, these are the size of a dot (•) and are the digested blood of a previous guest. The spots often bleed into the fabric and look similar to a marker pen stain.
How To Check For Bed Bugs In Your Hotel Room
Firstly, don’t make the classic mistake of putting your personal belongings and suitcases straight onto the bed because the bed bugs will soon be crawling inside.
Instead, as soon as you enter your room, keep your luggage off the floor and take it straight into the bathroom, and put it into the bathtub or on a countertop while you inspect your room. Keep everything zipped closed.
Why the bathtub? Because it has a surface that bed bugs find difficult to grip and climb. The bathtub is also a light color which makes it easy to spot the rusty colored bugs.
Don’t put your luggage on the luggage rack either as bed bugs can be found on the webbing and hiding in the joints. Once you’ve inspected these and haven’t found any trace of them, then you can use them.
2. Inspect The Mattress And Bed Frame
When staying in any hotel, or called to treat any hotel rooms, the mattress and bed area are the first places I inspect as these are prime hiding areas for bed bugs as they like to be close to a host for a blood meal. Therefore, you must check them thoroughly.
There is one thing you have that will help you carry out the visual inspection, and that is the flashlight on your cellphone. You’ll use it to look in the cracks and crevices where these bugs hide.
- Start by gently pulling back the sheets and check the bedding for signs of fecal stains which are digested blood bed bugs poop out onto the sheets, mattress, box spring, etc.
- Next, use the flashlight on your cellphone to inspect the entire mattress. Pull back the sheet and check inside the folds and creases on the mattress and all the way around and on the piping. Also, check there are no bed bugs hiding on and under the piping on the pillow top if there is one.
- Still using the flashlight, inspect the edging and seams of all pillows, duvet, and sheets. If there is a bed skirt inspect the pleats and seams.
- Inspect the headboard and in between any fabric creases and folds and in and behind any buttons. If you can, move the bed away from the wall and check behind and underneath the headboard.
If the headboard is fixed to the wall, use the flashlight to try and see through any cracks behind it.
- If there is a bed frame then inspect all the corners, joints, and any cracks and holes. Lift the mattress and look at where the mattress rests and check this area for cracks and crevices which provide great harborage areas.
If you want to carry out a more detailed search, then the following will be helpful.
3. Inspect Furniture Near The Bed
Bedside cabinets and nightstands also provide hiding spots for these pests, especially inside drawers, on the handles, in screw heads, and along the joints and edges.
Check the lamps, telephone, and picture frames that are close to the bed. I’ve often found bed bugs hiding behind picture frames when carrying out an inspection.
The couch or chair and other pieces of furniture can also be harborage sites so check along the seams and zippers, as well as in folds where the head and neck rests.
Look along the baseboards especially behind the bed for any evidence as well.
4. Inspect Luggage Stands
Check the webbing and joints and any screw heads. Remember, bed bugs can hide in the smallest of spaces.
By now you’ll know if your hotel room has bed bugs, or not.
You’ve Found Bed Bugs In Your Hotel Room, Now What?
If you find any signs of the bugs in your room, take lots of photos so you have a record as evidence.
Take your luggage and leave the room. Report your findings to the front desk hotel staff or hotel management and show them your photos, and demand to be moved to another room that isn’t anywhere near the room you were given.
You don’t want a room next door, opposite, directly above, or below as bed bugs can travel through the tiniest gaps in walls, floors, behind switch plates, and along pipes and into nearby rooms.
When you’re allocated a new room, look for the same signs and repeat the process again.
If the hotel is full, or for some reason is unable to provide a new room, insist on a full refund and ask for help with finding alternative accommodation.
Most hotels are very cooperative and will try their best to help you. However, it is always in your best interest to gather as much evidence as possible in case you need to make a claim.
- Take photos of the bed bugs and any telltale signs as mentioned above. Get as many pictures as you can so it is well documented.
- Name and address of the hotel or vacation rental. The manager’s name and any names and titles of other members of staff you spoke with about the bed bugs.
- Date(s) of your stay and whether the bed bugs were found at the beginning of your stay or during.
- Whether you or anyone else with you were bitten – take pictures of the welts and document if any medical treatment was needed. Keep all receipts and paperwork.
- Detail the actions you took when you discovered the bed bug(s) and the actions of the hotel.
- Keep copies of any emails or other correspondence between you and the hotel.
What Are The Chances Of Bringing Bed Bugs Home From A Hotel?
It’s bad enough when you find bed bug signs in your hotel room, but it’s even worse when you find a few have managed to hitch a ride back home with you.
As mentioned above, the hotel industry works hard to keep bed bugs at bay, they have contracts with pest control companies that inspect the rooms on a regular basis. You’ll more than likely find that most hotels now have bed bug mattress encasements installed on the beds. These prevent any bed bugs on the mattress from escaping and crawling into your luggage.
Despite all of these preventative measures, there is always a chance that you could take a bed bug back home, but the following will help you avoid that:
- When at the hotel keep your clothes and other belongings in sealable bags inside your suitcase or bag, and only take them out when you need them.
- Research has confirmed that you should put dirty laundry straight into a sealable bag, and not left lying around the room as bed bugs are attracted to human odors on clothes.
- Put your luggage into a large plastic bag and seal it before putting it in the car for the journey home. This will help contain any bed bugs.
- When you arrive back home leave your luggage in the garage until you are ready to deal with it, or take it straight into the bathroom and place it in the bathtub. Discard the plastic bag into the outside trash.
- Remove ALL clothes from your luggage and put them into a plastic bag, including the clothes you wore home. Take the bag straight to the washer and wash the clothes at the highest temperature according to the labels.
Then put them on the highest temperature setting in the dryer without ruining your clothes. Read How to get rid of bed bugs for our in-depth guide on what to do.
- Vacuum your empty suitcase inside and out to remove any bed bugs. Put your vacuum bag inside a plastic bag, seal it and place it in the garbage outside.
For bagless vacuums, empty the contents into a plastic bag, seal it, and put it into the trash outside. Take out the removable canister and wash in hot soapy water. It’s best to throw away the filter and replace it with a new one, if not, wash and dry it.
Bed Bug Registries
There are several of these types of websites, where people can report their bed bug sightings. They are helpful to see if guests are frequently reporting bed bugs at the hotel you are looking to stay in. However, be aware that not all comments may be genuine.
Bear in mind that most overnight accommodation providers have at some time had to deal with the occasional bed bug problem, but this doesn’t mean there are frequent bed bug infestations throughout the hotel.
As well as registry sites, read online reviews about the hotel from previous guests who reported bed bugs. A good indication of how the hotel manages this problem is how quickly they responded when the discovery was reported.
If the management ignored the complaint or blamed the guest in some way, then it’s probably not a good idea to stay there.
If you don’t find any online reviews about bed bugs in your hotel, this doesn’t mean the person who stayed in your room the night before hasn’t left one or two behind, so your best line of defense is to always carry out your own bed bug inspection every time you stay away from home.
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