Bed Bug Awareness Month
This week, from June 4 to June 10, marks Bed Bug Awareness Week.
As travel season kicks into high gear, the influx of guests from across the country and around the world dramatically increases the risk that your property may face a bed bug problem. While danger of an infestation is highest during the warmer months, vigilance and preparedness go a long way toward mitigating that risk.
Here are 5 tips to help protect your property, guests and employees from this pesky pest:
1. Educate and Train Staff
The staff which service rooms are your eyes in the field and your best chance to identify and contain a minor issue before it spreads into a major problem. When it comes to bed bugs, educating your team on what to look for is the best investment you can make. A thorough inspection of the most commonly effected areas, including the seams, tufts and tags of mattresses and box springs and the cushions and other upholstered surfaces of furniture, goes a long way toward identifying a problem early. Signs to look for include:
Fecal spotting – Bed bug droppings are usually the easiest sign to observe. They resemble the markings of a fine-tipped marker and usually appear as spots or streaks on fabric surfaces. Though less common, the digested blood can dry and form small specks on hard surfaces.
The bugs themselves – Adult bed bugs grow to about 5mm in length and are the easiest to recognize. Nymphs can vary in size and are usually pale tan in color, making them more difficult, but not impossible to detect on light-colored surfaces.
Cast skins – As bed bugs grow throughout their lifecycle, they shed their skins and leave them behind. These skins range in color from tan to brown and look like small insect shells.
2. Have a Thorough IPM Program and Strong Communication with your Pest Management Partner
Catching small problems and dealing with them quickly is crucial for containing bed bugs. It’s important that everyone who works in guest rooms knows your integrated pest management (IPM) plan and what to do after they discover signs. The first step once bugs are discovered is to contact your pest management vendor and thoroughly communicate what you’ve found. Self-treating is not an effective or recommended course of action. Some common insecticides contain repellents and are unlikely to kill all the bugs and may drive the survivors to hide in uncommon locations. This makes them much more difficult to find and treat. No matter how thorough or educated your staff is, there is still a need for help from a trained pest management professional. A pro will have the experience and the tools necessary to perform a more in-depth inspection, finding bed bugs hidden in less conspicuous places, and the required materials to make sure the problem is addressed appropriately.
3. Take Preventative Action
This is another area where a pest management partner with extensive experience treating for bed bugs can be a major asset. There are a variety of products hotels can use to proactively address bed bugs without guests even noticing. Your pest management professional will be able to recommend specific products that fit the unique needs of your property. These can range in function from killing bed bugs outright to inhibiting their feeding and reproductive processes, effectively impacting the bug’s potential to bite and its ability to multiply and spread. These products should be used year round, but if they’re not already part of your program, the beginning of travel season is as good a time to start as any.
4. Don’t Remove Anything from the Effected Rooms
After finding bed bugs in a room, on an item, or on a piece of furniture, it can be tempting to take items out of the room in an attempt to keep the bugs from spreading. If bugs are present on an item, there’s a significant risk they’re already on others, even if the signs aren’t visible. Don’t compound the problem by moving furniture out of the room, where hidden bugs can drop off and spread to other parts of the property. When your pest management partner arrives to treat, they can address the effected room or rooms, and all of its contents at once.
5. Consider All Your Options
While traditional chemical treatments may appear to be the most cost effective solution on paper, they can take the effected room or rooms out of service for several days. Heat-based treatments are more effective and the rooms can be put safely back into service quickly once they’re treated and cleaned. Heat treatments, while more expensive, eliminate bed bugs in all life stages, from eggs through adults, in a single treatment. Conventional treatments are typically not effective on eggs, and usually require a series of applications to thoroughly address the problem.
While hotels can’t control a pest that discretely hitches a ride in on guests and their luggage, thorough inspections and constant vigilance by a well-educated staff can go a long way toward making sure bed bugs don’t make an extended stay at your property.