Katie Kelly Bell, Contributor
Scouting the globe for the best experiences in food, wine and travel. Forbes
My job requires its fair share of travel which brings its share of concerns: crashing planes, terrorist attacks, illness, but the biggest worry that pulls at me? Bringing home bed bugs.
Most of us have heard a story or two about how ferociously difficult it is to rid your home of bed bugs, but what you may not realize is how obscenely easy it is to bring them home from your travels. Small and clever, they tuck into seams and nooks on your luggage with ease. Bed bugs aren’t just showing up in hotel rooms, they’re lurking in rental cars, taxis, and in some cases, the airport baggage claim area. There is even a national website for travelers to check-up on the hotel they plan to stay in. A friend of mine recently returned from New York City (she stayed in a mid-range priced hotel) and brought home bed bugs. After bringing in a bed bug sniffing dog (yes they exist) to identify where they lurked in her home, she decided to go with the heat treatment, otherwise known as structural pasteurization, and submitted her home to two ‘heatings’ to get rid of them. Thousands of dollars later she was bed bug free, but the treatment cost more than her trip to New York.
The whole creepy business is just one souvenir from traveling that we’d all rather leave behind. David Hedman, CEO of ThermaPure, a nationwide firm that specializing in structural pasteurization and eliminating bed bugs without pesticides, notes “There are several things travelers can do to be proactive and they’re as easy as traveling with collapsible luggage and carrying a hand-held flashlight.” Hedman was kind enough to placate my anxiety and share his insights into what else we can do to stay pest and worry free.
Why should we travel with collapsible luggage?
You want to be able to place your bags in the dryer (for 30 minutes at high heat) immediately after returning home, and you can do that with hard-sided bags. The bugs don’t mind the cold, but they can’t tolerate heat.” Hedman recalls a story one of his customers shared about freezing a bed bug. “She defrosted the bug, and it just crawled away.”
How can I tell if my hotel room has bed bugs?
First, once you enter the room it’s very important you put luggage on the folding stand or in the bathtub because typically they can’t crawl on metal, they slip off. Don’t put anything on the bed, in the dresser or closet. This is where your little flashlight is so important; bed bugs are hiding where the blood host sleeps so the three most common areas are the headboard, nightstand and mattress.
Shine the flashlight on the front and back of the headboard. On the nightstand they curl up in the tiny screw holes and lurk in the other nooks and crannies where two joints come together. On the bed just pull the bedding back and look for them along seam lines on the mattress or box spring. You should also be looking for blood spots as well.
How can I tell if my rental car has them?
Interestingly we find lower rental car infestation rates during summer months because the cars heat up (in excess of 120 degrees) sitting on the lot. High heat for more than 30 minutes is the Achilles heel of a bed bug. When car is hot they’ll go down in the trunk or under the spare tire, and those are the places you want to look first with your flashlight.
Where else should we be proactive in looking for them?
Right now we are not seeing many in airplanes, however we suspect, and this is based on anecdotal evidence from my customers, there are bed bugs in airport luggage areas.
If I suspect I’ve brought bed bugs home, what now?
If you think you have them, or during your travels you suspect you were bitten, upon arrival home immediately put all clothing and luggage in dryer and let it go for 30 minutes on high heat (roughly the 130 to 165 Fahrenheit), that will kill them. If it’s too late for that, consider structural pasteurization. But do your due diligence and be sure to retain a contractor who is licensed and who uses proper filtration during the heating process. If you are blowing convective air at high velocity and stirring up dusty areas, you must have filtration or you risk polluting your home with dangerous dust.
Visit bedbugresitry.com for a thorough list of hotels with bed bug issues.