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How to Keep Bed Bugs Out of Hotel Fitness Centers

By Jennifer Brumfield

When it comes to bed bugs, your hotel cleaning and maintenance staff is trained to be on high alert—particularly in guest rooms, where the nightmarish bloodsuckers are known to congregate. One bad review that mentions pests, especially bed bugs, can threaten the reputation and overall success of your establishment.

But guest rooms aren’t the only hangout for bed bugs at your hotel. They’re known to hide inside fitness centers, too.

Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers, which is how they find their way into hotel guest rooms—and how they get themselves to the gym. Bed bugs are transported by people, often on personal belongings such as luggage, purses, and gym bags.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, University of Sheffield researchers found that bed bugs are more attracted to dirty laundry and human odors than to items that are clean and recently washed. This means that sweaty gym clothes in fitness center lockers and baskets of used towels are magnets for bed bugs. In these conducive conditions, even one bed bug on a gym bag can quickly spawn an infestation.

Here are some high-risk areas you should check when inspecting your fitness center for bed bugs.


Gym lockers are often dark, making them an ideal hiding place for bed bugs. Make sure to check in the top and bottom corners, and be especially vigilant with lockers that have slat openings.

Laundry baskets

Baskets made of natural materials may suit your hotel decor, but bed bugs can easily hide within the woven fibers. If you use this type of basket to collect used towels, be sure to empty the baskets multiple times each day.

Electrical outlets

Electrical outlets in hotel gyms are another common hiding spot for bed bugs. Check for bed bugs behind the plates on the wall, on the electrical connections of exercise equipment, and inside surge protectors.

Floor padding

If your fitness center uses flex rolls or interlocking mats on the floor, check for pests along the edges where the mats meet each other and against the walls. The typical dark colors of these mats mean that visual inspections may not always be productive, so consider supplementing with other inspection methods, such as canine detection, for this type of floor covering.

Shared fitness equipment

Although bike seats, yoga mats, and rowing machines are not bed bugs’ favorite spots, since people sit on these items, bed bugs may accumulate there.

Sitting areas

Couches, benches, and other common areas where people sit or rest their gym bags may also conceal bed bugs.

Hotel maintenance staff must be diligent in inspecting fitness centers. Detection is critical to breaking the bed bug life cycle. During their inspections, your housekeeping staff should keep the following in mind:

It’s tempting to think that seeing a few bed bugs is no indication of a large infestation. But an adult female bed bug can produce from 200 to 500 healthy eggs during her lifetime and may lay two to five eggs each day, so even if you only see a few bed bugs at first, the likelihood of an infestation is extremely high.

Should you feel the need to turn to experts, pest control companies offer a range of bed bug services, including proactive treatments, canine detection, heat treatment, and fumigation.

Your fitness center and gym equipment can be a great selling point for travelers — don’t let it become a hot spot for bed bugs.

Jennifer Brumfield is a technical specialist and Board Certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.

Originally featured at Cleaning & Maintenance Management.