Another Holidays Worry – Bed Bugs
Thursday, December 22, 2011
This holiday season, there may be more to worry about when checking
off your Christmas list then packing, wrapping and
Suitcases, gift packages, car rentals and hotel rooms can all be
sources of bed bugs - those sometimes hard-to-detect bugs that made
headlines last year across the world when what experts called at
one point, a preventable outbreak, seemed all of a sudden
"It's the word you never want to hear because it's just an ugly
little critter," said Nate Weare, general manager at the Holiday
Inn Mansfield. "I say, let's take a step back and know what we're
Bed bugs, which the Center for Disease Control defines as small,
flat, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of people and
animals while they sleep, and most people describe as just plain
icky, started showing up, it seemed, everywhere in 2010 causing, in
some instances, panic among hotel guests and travelers who feared
for their skin every time they checked in. Though news reports on
the subject appear to have died down a bit since then, the problem
has not gone away.
The 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey, conducted by the National
Pest Management Association (NPMA), reports that 80 percent of
member respondents say infestations are increasing across the
country and that nearly all professional pest management companies
have received bed bug calls within the last year.
"We do get bed bugs here, and it's just something we're going to
have to deal with," said Tom DeJesus, service manager and director
of training at Providence-based New England Pest Control. "It's
just incredible how it's exploded."
DeJesus, who's been in the pest control business for 35 years,
said in his first 25 years on the job he received in total less
than a handful of bed bug service calls. Now, they're much more
common, coming in at times on a weekly basis.
Reports have attributed the outbreak to increased international
travel, policies that banned some pesticides and limited knowledge,
among other things.
Travel almost certainly has something to do with it. The CDC says
bed bugs are experts at hiding in luggage, folded clothes and
People then can carry bed bugs without even knowing - to hotel
rooms, where the next guest can pick up the bugs and carry them on
and so on and so on.
That's where the problem starts with hotels where, 80 percent of
NPMA members report having treated for bed bugs this year, compared
to 67 percent last year.
"People think of bed bugs and they think of sanitation, and that
has so little to do with it," Weare said. "People have such a
DeJesus says it's almost a question of odds.
"Everybody travels and people just go," he said. "You just have to
In fact, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA)
said the increase in bed bugs has had "a minimal impact on the vast
majority of hotels."
AH&LA urges consumers to remember that bed bugs are brought in
by guests and that hotels are not to blame.
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has set
guidelines for hotels, including the recommendation that they hire
a licensed pest control company to regularly inspect the
Often, though, a hotel doesn't know there's a problem until a
guest comes down to the front desk pointing to a bite on their
ankle - if even then.
"Some people get a bite and go to bedbugs.com
," Weare said.
Weare's hotel was listed on bedbugreports.com
, one of
several consumer-watch type websites that have sprung up since last
year promising a reliable source for which hotels have had bed bug
He said the Holiday Inn in Mansfield hasn't had a bed bug issue,
but that they did have a dog show take place there over the
"If it's not a bed bug, it's generally a flea issue," he said. "We
haven't had bed bugs in years and years and years. But that doesn't
mean we won't have them tomorrow."
The Days Inn in Attleboro was also listed on bedbugreports.com
A general manage there, who asked not to be identified, said the
hotel did have an issue over the summer but it has been taken care
She, too, said the panic of the general hotel visitor is
"It's everywhere in the world," she said. "People travel and you
don't know who brings them in."
DeJesus cautions that many of the bed bug websites could be
misleading. Instead, he points people to visit the NPMA Website and
those of pest control companies.
"I'm sure some of the sites are legitimate," he said. "But anybody
can post something to one of those things."
The CDC says identification of bed bug bites is difficult without
finding other evidence of bed bug infestation, including the actual
bugs or their exoskeletons, because bites can take as long as 14
days to appear and may resemble those of a mosquito or flea.
It's also important to note that the CDC says bed bugs shouldn't
be considered a medical or public health hazard.
DeJesus recommends, when traveling this holiday season, to keep
your cool and do your best to keep the bed bugs away by examining
mattresses, headboards and other easy hiding places as soon as you
arrive in a hotel room, keeping your suitcase on a table instead of
the floor, and unpacking your dirty clothes while still in the
garage into a trash bag and directly to the washing machine.
"I used to be one of those people who would unpack my suitcase,"
DeJesus said. "I don't do that anymore."