Don't Give Bed Bugs a Ride Home

The Virginian-Pilot
Saturday, July 23, 2011

What you want to bring home from vacation: souvenirs.

What you don't want to bring home from vacation: hitchhikers.

Particularly the tiny, four-legged kind that come out at night to suck your blood, warned Kevin Kordek, immediate past president of the National Pest Management Association and owner of A-Active Termite and Pest Control in Virginia Beach.

He's talking about the pests that are increasingly finding their way home with travelers: bedbugs.

Once you get them, look out: "They're very hard to get rid of," Kordek said.

Being proactive is essential in the battle against bringing bedbugs home.

Search reviews on www.tripadvisor.com before selecting accommodations, he said. Then, play it safe by packing clothes in sealable plastic bags.

When you reach your vacation destination, thoroughly check for signs of those pesky little bugs, Kordek said.

"Don't unpack," he said. "Examine the beds, and know what you're looking for."

Pull down the top sheet to the mattress level. Bedbugs like to lodge in cracks, crevices and folds. Even check the pleats of upholstered furniture.

If you see any tiny dark or reddish spots the size of small apple seeds, it's time to re-group. Ask for another room, or move to another destination.

Even if you don't see signs of bedbugs, still take precautions, Kordek said.

Jim Murphy, president of the Tidewater Pest Control Association, which has about 75 local members, agreed.

"They are definitely out there, from the five-star to the mom-and-pop hotel."

Murphy said he keeps his suitcase away from the wall when he reaches his destination, and doesn't unpack or place anything in the drawers, noting, "They can be anywhere."

National Pest Management Association spokeswoman Missy Henriksen said the least likely place to find bedbugs is the bathroom, and suggests placing luggage there before making your bedbug inspection.

"No suitcases on the floor or on the second bed," she advised.

Kids can bring bedbugs home from camp, dorms, anywhere, Murphy said. So, don't take those suitcases in the house upon arrival home, he said.

Unpack and vacuum them out in the garage or an outdoor space, Kordek said. Backpacks, diaper bags and purses should also be given the same care.

"Wash and dry clothes immediately," Murphy said. "Drying is key; heat will kill."

And if your suitcase or duffle bag fits in the dryer, throw it in, too. Even apparel not worn should be run through the dryer, or if required, taken to the dry cleaners.

The national association and the University of Kentucky conducted a study last year and found that the occurrence of bedbugs is increasing.

Reasons cited were increased travel, more immigration, changing pest-control products and methods, and resistance to available insecticides. Other factors noted were lack of awareness about how to identify the bugs and not knowing what precautions to take.

Fortunately, Hampton Roads doesn't have a serious bedbug problem, Kodek said. And the likelihood of encountering bedbugs is relatively small, Henrikson added.

The key is to be vigilant, Korkek said"Pretend like you're going to be the victim

Checklist

Use this guide from the National Pest Control association to prevent a bedbug infestation.

* At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, change rooms or establishments immediately.

* Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change rooms or establishments immediately.

* If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. As bedbugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets, if an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.

* Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag during the duration of your trip to ensure that bedbugs cannot take up residence there.

* After traveling, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away.

* Wash all of your clothes - even those not worn -in hot water to ensure that any bedbugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet. If you don't want to wash, send clothes through the dryer.