It is time for summer vacations, which means you will likely be staying in a hotel room at some point. The last thing you want on a fun-filled trip with your family is to deal with is your children (or yourself) waking up covered in bites.
Knowing how to check for bed bugs before your lay your head on the pillow can save you from a pesky situation.
Step 1 - Know Your Enemy
In order to best check for bed bugs, it helps to know some of the basics about these critters.
Like many small pests, they reproduce quickly, so a full-blown infestation can occur just as quickly. These guys are about the size of an apple seed and similar in color. Young ones can be white or clear, and eggs look like tiny grains of rice. If they have not fed recently, they will be flat with an oval-like shape. After they have recently fed, they become more plump and round. They also produce a musty-sweet smell.
Of course, places that are less clean are more susceptible, but even the cleanest establishment can become infested. Much like how in school all it takes is one child with lice to spread them to the whole class, all it takes is one guest to carry in the vermin to cause a major problem.
Unlike ticks and mosquitoes, these guys are not known to transmit diseases. But like these other common pests, they do feed on human blood and cause skin irritation. While they do not pose the same health risks, they are linked to other public health issues. Honestly, they are considered to be more of a nuisance than anything else.
Step 2 - Know Where to Look
These pests hide in more places than just under the sheets. Surprisingly, you can find them lurking in clothing stores as well. So, you can see that this is not something that is limited to hotels or where you lay your head at night. These expert hiders can be found embedded deep in a mattress or hidden behind a painting on a wall.
If you are checking for bed bugs, be sure to check between the sheets, under the covers, in the pillow case, under the sheets, between the mattress and box spring, behind the headboard, around the nightstand, underneath anything on the stand, and behind anything that is hanging on the wall. It is also possible that they could be concealing themselves in other upholstered furniture, towels, or linens.
You can purchase interception devices or monitors. This is the next best thing to hiring a professional. The downside is that it takes time because you need to leave these devices in place for a few days or weeks, checking on them every few days. On the bright side, this will allow you to make a positive identification after trapping one.
Step 3 - Know the Other Signs
Often, people do not see any of the critters while they are checking for bed bugs, but rather see other evidence of their presence.
These creepy-crawlies are often discovered after someone wakes up with bites that they did not have before going to bed. They also leave behind fecal matter, which can be found around the infected area. You will see dark spots about the size of a dot.
You may also find shed skin, eggs, or eggshells. These will be a yellowish or white color. One other possibility is rusty or reddish stains that come from the pests being crushed.
How Can You Avoid Them?
There are some precautions you can take before you even begin to check for bed bugs. These critters like to travel just like your luggage, by way of the valet. Unless you plan on inspecting it, it is probably best to skip it all together.
In general, you want to avoid setting your suitcase on any upholstered furniture. That is one of the most common ways vacationers bring uninvited guests back to their homes.
These guys love clutter. Keeping the clutter to a minimum will give them one less place to seek refuge. Try keeping your dirty clothes in a plastic bag, and keep your belongings separate from anyone else you may be staying with, especially if you do not know them.
You can also create barriers with casings. Many mattress and pillow protectors will keep out many allergens, including these pests. It is important to read the packaging, though.
Vacuuming (including inside your suitcase) and regular household cleaning are also good precautionary measures you should be taking.
While you may now feel highly qualified to check for bed bugs, they can be stealthy. If you do suspect you have an infestation, it is best to have a professional come and inspect. They will also be able to ensure the problem is taken care of in the most efficient way. You should speak to the concierge immediately if you are in a room that is infected and request a new room.
Once you've identified your bed bug problem, move on to getting rid of them for good.