HOW TO CHECK FOR BED BUGS IN A HOTEL

Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician

HOW COMMON ARE BED BUGS IN HOTELS?

As bed bug (Cimex lectularius) infestations continue to rise along with the number of times we travel for both business and vacation, it’s no wonder there has been a reported increase of bed bugs in hotel rooms, especially during peak travel seasons. So if we want to have a bed bug free vacation and avoid bringing them back home then it’s important to know how to check for bed bugs in your hotel, or anywhere else you stay.

The screenshot below gives you some idea of just how common bed bugs are in hotels and the problems they face.  

Image of research into bed bug infestations in hotels in the United States
Orkin partnered with market research firm The Bantam Group to produce this research in 2016.  100 U.S. hotels of all sizes were surveyed to ascertain the impact of bed bugs.[1]

Bed bugs are found wherever we are, so that means these horrible blood-sucking pests can be found in the cheapest hotels and motels to the most expensive and cleanest 5 star hotels and resorts in the world.[2]

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF BED BUGS?

There are several signs of bed bugs so it’s important to look out for the following:

Live bed bugs and eggs – bed bugs are tiny and reddish-brown in color 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 as live bed bugs, you’ll also need to look for signs of nymphs (baby bed bugs) and eggs, which are extremely small but are visible if you look carefully.

The eggs are white, approximately 1mm in length, and are laid in clusters usually in cracks and crevices and other tight spaces.

Read here for more information on what are bed bugs.

Bed bug shells – this is the exoskeleton of the bed bug as it sheds its skin 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 casings will be easy to spot as they will be found clustered along the seams of the mattress, box spring, headboard, and other upholstered furniture in the room, such as a couch or chair.

Blood smears and dark spots – lookout for rusty-colored streaks or smears on the bed which is when a person has rolled onto the bed bugs and crushed them.  The smears are actually undigested blood that the bed bug has fed on from a previous guest.  

The dark spots are bed bug excrement, these are the size of a dot (•) and are the digested blood of previous guests.  The spots often bleed into the fabric and look similar to a marker pen stain.  


HOW TO CHECK FOR BED BUGS IN A HOTEL ROOM

Below is a general guide to checking for bed bugs in hotels, motels, B&B, hostel, or any other overnight accommodation.     

1. PLACE ALL LUGGAGE IN THE BATHTUB OR SHOWER

As soon as you enter your room, make sure your luggage doesn’t touch the floor and take it straight into the bathroom.  Put all your luggage into the bathtub 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 them.

Don’t put your luggage on the luggage stands 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.  

Luggage in bathtub in hotel room
Place all luggage in the bathtub in the hotel room when you arrive to prevent bringing bed bugs back home.

2. INSPECT THE MATTRESS AND BED FRAME

This is the prime area where you’ll find bed bugs hiding and waiting for their next feed, so it is really important to check the mattress and the rest of the bed area.  

Start by gently pulling back the sheets and check that the bedding is clean.  You’re looking for fecal stains that are digested blood the bed bug poops out onto the sheets, mattress, box spring, etc.

Inspect all the edging and seams of the pillows, duvet, and sheets.  Do the same if there is a bed skirt by inspecting the pleats and seams.  

Inspect the headboard by looking in between any fabric creases and folds on the design.  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 on your phone to try and see through any cracks behind it.

Check the bed frame by looking in the corners and joints and any cracks and holes where bed bugs might be hiding.  

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 that are close to the bed area will provide a home for bed bugs.  

Check for any signs of the bugs by looking inside drawers, on the handles, in screw heads, and along the joints and edges.  

Lamps, telephones, and other items, as well as picture frames that are close to the bed, also need inspecting.  Look in small cracks and crevices as well as corners and underneath and behind. Bed bugs are often found behind picture frames.  

Inspect the couch or chair and other items of upholstered furniture by checking the seams and zips, and the area where the head and neck rests. Also, remember to look at the pleats and seams of the curtains.  

Do the same with any other furniture in the room; look along the baseboards especially behind the bed for any evidence of bed bugs as well. 

4. INSPECT LUGGAGE STANDS

Finally, check the luggage stands by inspecting the webbing and joints.  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 telltale signs of bed bugs in your room, take photos, if possible, so you have a record as evidence. 

Remove your luggage from the bathtub and leave the room.  Report your findings to the front desk, show them your photos, and ask 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 are able to travel through the tiniest of gaps in walls, floors, behind switch plates, and along pipes and into nearby rooms. 

When you get allocated a new room, look for the same signs and repeat the process again.  

However, if the hotel is full and 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, such as the following: 

  • The most important part is to take pictures of the infested areas of the room, such as the mattress and other items of furniture.  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 such as after a couple of days. 
  • Whether you or anyone else with you were bitten – take pictures of the bites and document if any medical treatment was needed. Keep all receipts and paperwork.
  • The actions you took when you discovered the bed bug(s) and the actions of the hotel.

  • Copies of any emails or other correspondence between you and the hotel.


DON’T TAKE BED BUGS BACK HOME WITH YOU

It’s bad enough when you find bed bugs in your hotel room, but it’s even worse if you find a few have managed to hitch a ride back with you. The following tips, as well as the advice given above for checking your room, will help you avoid this and a potential infestation:

  • For added protection, keep your clothes and other belongings in sealable bags inside your suitcase or bag, and only take them out when you need them.
  • You can place your suitcase inside a clear or white plastic bag and tie it closed; you’ll be able to see if there are any bed bugs trying to crawl up, but they won’t make it to the top as it’s too slippery for 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 the odors humans leave on their clothes.

In the absence of a human host, bed bugs were twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes.[3]

Nature.com

  • When you arrive back home leave your luggage in the garage. If you don’t have a garage, take them into the bathroom and place them in the bathtub.

    Remove ALL the clothes from your luggage and the ones you wore home and put them into a plastic bag. Take the bag straight to the washer and wash the clothes at the highest temperature according to the labels.

    When the wash cycle has finished, move everything to the drier and use the highest temperature setting possible without ruining your clothes. Read How to get rid of bed bugs for our in-depth guide on what to do.

    Next vacuum your empty suitcase both inside and out to get rid of any bed bugs. Put your vacuum bag inside a plastic bag and seal and place it in the garbage outside.

    For bagless vacuums, empty the contents into a plastic bag, seal completely with tape, and put it into the trash outside.  Take out the removable canister and wash in hot soapy water to remove any bed bugs left in there. It’s best to also Throw away the filter and replace it with a new one.  If not, wash and dry it, or freeze it to kill off any bed bugs that might be remaining.


BED BUG REGISTRIES

There are several of these types of websites, such as https://bedbugregistry.com/ where people can report their bed bug sightings in places they’ve stayed. They are helpful to see if there have frequently been multiple guests reporting of bed bugs at the hotel you are looking at staying in.

However, 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 it’s a regular infestation problem.

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 any such problems is how quickly they responded when the discovery of bed bugs was reported. However, 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 your hotel having had bed bugs at some point, this doesn’t mean they won’t as the person who stayed in the room the night before you may have left a few bed bugs behind. So your best line of defense is knowing how to check for bed bugs in a hotel yourself.

[1] https://www.orkin.com/commercial/solutions/hospitality-gaming/bed-bug-proact

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html

[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-11850-5

Peststopsolutions.com

Anthony O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician

I’ve been in the pest control industry helping people get rid of their unwanted pests for over 20 years, both in the UK and Canada.

As a licensed pest control technician I’ve seen and treated just about every common household pest, insect or rodent, you can think of. I’ve seen the damage caused when an infestation has been left too long and has become hard to get rid of.

For this reason, peststopsolutions.com was created. By having honest advice and the right guidance to hand, along with scientific evidence to back up claims, you are given information on the best eradication methods, as well as how to get rid of most pests yourself.