Labor Day travel plans could bring travelers into contact with more than just a relaxing day in the mountains or at the beach. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services encourages travelers to be aware of bedbugs and to take steps to ensure these infamous hitchhikers do not come home in the luggage.
“Bedbugs are great hiders and only come out at night to feed,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Unless a room has a heavy infestation, you won’t see them without effort. A 10-minute inspection with an LED flashlight can save travelers a lot of headaches down the road if it keeps them from bringing bedbugs home.”
Travelers should first ask the front desk if the hotel has have had issues with bedbugs and then avoid rooms that have them. Bed bugs can travel on luggage from other travelers and any hotel, regardless of price range, can get them. Once in the room, do an inspection of the headboard, mattress, box spring and bed frame. The headboard is the easiest place to find an infestation. Use a bright flashlight, such as an LED light, to help look for black spots that look like ink stains. This is the blood-filled fecal matter of bedbugs and is typically found around their hiding spaces. Also look for alive or dead bedbugs. Fully grown bedbugs move slowly, like ants, and are about the size of an apple seed. Finally, look for skin that has been shed by bedbugs during the molting process.
Any of these signs could point to a bedbug issue, and travelers should request a different room. Extra precautions to take in a hotel room include not storing luggage or other personal items near the bed, not using dresser drawers if it is a short stay, and finally, if you are really nervous about bedbugs, store your suitcase in the bathtub.
“There are several websites that claim to give you bedbug reports on area hotels,” said Dr. Jung Kim, environmental senior specialist with the NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. “These reports do not tend to show current status. The hotel could have treated the room and the website could be showing an older, corrected problem.”
If someone has bites, or suspects they have come into contact with bedbugs when traveling, they may also want to take a few precautionary steps at home. These include storing luggage in the garage or placing it in a plastic bag, placing all washable items in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes and putting all non-washable items that are not temperature-sensitive in the freezer for 24 hours. Plastic bags and tight-lidded containers are effective at controlling the spread of bedbugs but not at killing them. A bedbug can live several months without feeding. All bites should be reported to the county health department.
“The good news is bedbugs do not transmit diseases,” Jung added. “The bad news is that eradicating bedbugs from your home can be difficult and expensive. Some stores sell bedbug repellents; right now, there is no known repellent for bedbugs.” If you suspect bedbugs, call a pest control company that is licensed by the NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. Treatment measures typically involve chemical or thermal remediation, which includes heating homes or spaces to about 150 degrees. To learn more about bedbugs, go to Jung’s blog at www.ncbedbugs.com.