By Jennifer Brumfield, Training and Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services
Bed bugs may not be the media darling they were a few years ago, but bed bug activity has not ceased. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky, bed bug infestations continue at high rates in the United States. Nearly 100 percent (99.6) of survey respondents reported treating for bed bugs in the past year. That number has been consistent for the past few years, whereas 15 years ago, only 25 percent reported treating for bed bugs.
While bed bugs are an issue for hotels throughout the year, they are especially troublesome during peak travel seasons like summer. The NPMA reports that bed bug incidents are three times higher in urban areas, so hotels in major cities like Philadelphia are especially at risk, as well as those hotels that experience high occupancy turnover and have a higher volume of rooms.
With customers quick to offer online reviews, bed bugs can jeopardize a hotel’s brand reputation and ultimately lower occupancy rates. They can also increase legal costs if discovered by a hotel guest and be a source of expensive remediation. Bed bugs reproduce quickly – one female can lay 5 eggs a day and up to 500 eggs in a lifetime, so an infestation that goes undetected can grow out of control fast.
So how can your hotel reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation during peak travel times? The best strategy is to have a bed bug plan in place and be well prepared and educated, should any issues arise.
Develop a bed bug sighting protocol.
If bed bugs are suspected, how will you respond? Who do you contact? What actions should be taken? Lay down a set of firm guidelines in advance that address these questions and make sure your entire team is aware of the protocol.
Educate your housekeeping staff.
Your housekeeping staff see rooms on a daily basis and can therefore be the eyes and ears of your property, but if they aren’t armed with the knowledge of what to look for, they won’t be able to contribute. Train your staff how to identify bed bugs, understand the signs of bed bugs and how to monitor for them. Many pest management providers offer free staff training and educational resources that can be very helpful.
Signs of bed bugs include live bed bugs, cast skins, and ink-colored fecal smears. Remember, bed bugs are small – about the size and shape of an apple seed – and they’re nocturnal, so they can be difficult to spot. As a result, understanding the other signs they leave behind is critical.
Conduct regular inspections.
When it comes to bed bugs, early detection is key. One of the best strategies for detecting bed bugs before they spread is conducting regular inspections. In addition to having housekeeping staff monitor for bed bugs on a daily basis as they change bedding and clean rooms, designate someone to inspect rooms once a month. Check mattresses and mattress coverers, between bed skirt pleats, box springs, baseboards, luggage racks, dresser drawers, and under cushions.
Consider having a licensed pest management professional complete room inspections on a regularly scheduled basis, at least twice a year. Trained canine teams can also be used to proactively inspect rooms and are 95-98 percent effective in identifying small numbers of bed bugs in isolated areas. They are also capable of inspecting a room in less time and with less disruption than other methods.
If bed bugs are found, contain the issue.
If bed bugs are suspected, immediately take the room or rooms out of service and leave everything untouched to prevent spreading the infestation. Call a professional pest management provider to conduct a thorough inspection of the affected areas and properly diagnose the problem. If bed bugs are confirmed, work with your provider to determine the best treatment plan for your hotel.
Don’t let bed bugs take a bite out of your bottom line this summer. Be prepared for an infestation, make sure your whole team is on board with your bed bug protocols and work with a pest management professional to help monitor for and treat bed bugs in your hotel, should any issues occur.
Jennifer Brumfield in a Board Certified entomologist and Training and Technical Specialist for Western Pest Services, a New-Jersey based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.