Bed Bugs Complaints Made at 34 of 64 North KY Hotels
Friday, May 18, 2012
When John Johnson came from Oklahoma to Florence for a work
assignment, he had never even seen a bed bug.
After sharing a room with the pests for several days in a local
hotel, he hopes he never crosses paths with one again.
"They were biting me all over," Johnson said. "They were on me and
in my clothes. It was awful."
Johnson contacted the hotel manager, who moved him to another room,
but as bed bugs often do, they hitched a ride to the new
Frustrated, Johnson called the Northern Kentucky Health Department,
which came to the hotel and performed an inspection. After finding
evidence of bed bugs, the room was taken out of service until it
was determined to be bug-free.
The scenario is all too familiar to area hotel owners and the
Northern Kentucky Health Department.
Since May 2010, 34 of the 64 Northern Kentucky hotels under the
scrutiny of the Health District have been the subject of at least
one bed bug complaint.
The hotel with the most complaints over the two-year reporting
period was the Drawbridge Inn on Royal Drive in Fort Mitchell with
12 findings of bed bug infestation during inspections and
follow-ups, from 20 complaints.
The Super 8 Motel, also on Royal Drive in Fort Mitchell, had 12
findings of bed bug infestation from 17 complaints in the reporting
Some inspections at these properties indicated infestations in more
than one room.
HOW HOTELS REACT TO COMPLAINTS MAKES A
Steve Divine, Environmental Health and Safety Director for the
Northern Kentucky Health District, said the complaint-driven
inspection requests run the gamut of area hotels.
"It's not just the mom and pop hotels on the side of the road,"
Divine said. "It's those all the way up to expensive hotels with
big operations that can have the issue. It can happen to any hotel
or facility, but it's how they handle it that seems to make the
Based on information in complaint reports obtained by The Enquirer
through an open records request, that can vary widely.
When the health department responded to the lone complaint at one
hotel, the room in question had been inspected by a pest control
company and was scheduled to be shut down for a month.
Complaints at other hotels required multiple follow-up visits
before the infestation was resolved.
Divine said most hotel owners and managers cooperate with the
"For the most part, they don't want to have them either because
it's bad for business," Divine said. "They usually have been very
receptive of what we are requiring them to do. They know that's
just part of doing business, unfortunately, at this point."
Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging
Association, said bedbugs have become a national problem that is
especially hard to eradicate in hotels.
"It's not limited to a particular city or section of the country or
state," McInerney said."We put a lot of information on our website
and we hold webinars for our members about bed bugs and what you
need to do if you find them in your hotel. We've done training with
our (housekeepers) about what to look for in the guest rooms and
make sure they do a deep cleaning in certain areas. There's only so
much you can do about them because you could clean them up today
and tomorrow they can come back again because somebody else brought
AREA TOPS NATION IN BED BUG CASES
Ron Harrison, an entomologist and Technical Services Director for
Orkin Pest Control, said it's not surprising so many Northern
Kentucky hotels have bed bug issues.
Orkin releases rankings for the worst bed bug cities in the United
States, based on its number of calls for service and the Cincinnati
metropolitan area has ranked first the last two years.
"It's not definitive, but many experts believe the Cincinnati area
is kind of a crossroads, with interstates and a lot of traffic from
planes, buses and other forms of transportation," Harrison said.
"Clearly there are a lot more bed bug issues in Ohio than most
Columbus, Dayton, and Cleveland have also ranked in the top 15 each
of the last two years.
"Cultural diversity in the region could also be a factor," Harrison
said. "There may be people coming from other parts of the world
where bed bugs are more common who may not be so quick to report it
or even know you should report it."
Increases in migration and international travel have been widely
identified as factors in the re-emergence of active bed bug
populations in the United States. The problem was all but
eradicated until the turn of the century when the pests began to
reappear in increasing numbers.
"The hotel industry was kind of indifferent to it at first, but in
about 2005 it hit really hard," Harrison said. "They jumped on it
aggressively and they have developed some wonderful training and
great programs and policies to deal with the problem."
Harrison said it's important to realize that incidents of bed bug
infestation in a hotel are not evidence of poor housekeeping.
"Bed bugs don't come in on critters or other pests; people bring
them in and most of the introductions come by guests," Harrison
said. "An employee could bring it in to a locker or to the break
room, but to migrate all the way up to the rooms would be quite
ROUTINE INSPECTIONS NOT EFFECTIVE?
A hotel bed bug inspection by the health department includes
examining the bedding, the frame of the bed, the headboard, the
area immediately around the bed, the mattress and box
"We're looking for live bugs, the casings where they have shed
their outer exoskeleton, droppings and other signs of recent
activity," Divine said. "We're also going to look at chairs or
couches with cushions, the floor itself and the area where the
floor and the wall meet along the baseboard, especially along the
If live bugs or bed bug activity is discovered, that room and all
adjacent rooms are shut down and must be evaluated by a
professional pest control company and treated as necessary. The
room cannot be put back on the market until the health department
gets notification that the room has been treated and a follow-up
inspection is done.
Surprisingly, considering the number of complaints received, none
of the most recent routine inspections by the Northern Kentucky
Health Department identified instances of bed bug
Divine, however, said that is not unusual.
"Unless there is a complaint, we're only doing inspections on
hotels once a year," Divine said. "We're only looking at 10 percent
(of rooms) on any given visit, so it's kind of going to be hit or
miss and the odds aren't necessarily in your favor. If somebody
calls in a complaint, obviously they have experienced it in a
specific room and hopefully very recently."
While inspections are not scheduled, Divine said hotel owners have
a general idea when they are likely to occur. They may perform
preventive maintenance at that time to avoid having rooms taken off
the market because of infestation.