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Travel is widely recognized as the most common cause of bed bug infestations. Often unbeknownst to the traveler, bed bugs will hitchhike on people, clothing, luggage, or other personal belongings and be accidentally transported to other properties.
Bed bugs are extremely proficient at going unnoticed by humans. As small, wingless insects with flattened bodies, they can hide in tight, secluded spaces that are often out of sight, such as behind headboards or deep in upholstered furniture.
Their flat bodies also help to protect them from being smashed if one of their hosts rolls over onto them in the middle of the night.
Although bed bugs prefer to remain hidden, they will move out of their hiding spaces to feed when a host is nearby. But even then, bed bugs are cautious about their actions. To avoid detection, the reddish-brown insects typically wait until the middle of the night before beginning their quest for a blood meal and moving towards a host. When they bite, they inject their victim with a mild anesthetic to help them go unnoticed while they feed.
Alongside food poisoning and lost luggage, bed bugs are a top concern for travelers.
Lack of awareness and the “it will never happen to me” attitude have greatly contributed to the spread of bed bugs - or ‘travel bugs,’ as they may be dubbed one day in the future.
In the last decade, bed bugs have made a resurgence around the world and are a major source of stress for many property owners in the U.S.
Both businesses and private homes have experienced problems with bed bugs. Once a problem largely for hotels, today many types of businesses experience problems with bed bugs including colleges and universities, hospitals, retail stores, movie theaters, libraries, and more.
Increased global travel is often cited as one of the biggest contributing factor to the increase in bed bug infestations in the U.S. in the two decades. Travel from the U.S. to distant locations where bed bugs are more common has led to the growing problem of bed bugs.
Another common cause of bed bugs is the popularity of second hand furniture. Bed bugs can often be introduced to a property when an infested piece of furniture is brought into a home or business.
Likewise, rented furniture can also be to blame if it is rented to a property where bed bugs are present and then inadequately inspected upon its return before being rented again. Bed bugs can survive for many months without a blood meal, so simply isolating an infested piece of furniture will not get rid of bed bugs.
Homeowners and renters often unintentionally bring bed bugs into their homes by picking up discarded furniture and bringing it into their homes. Not all infested items that are thrown out are marked as being bed bug-infested.
Inspect bed - When you arrive at your hotel, carefully inspect the bed you will be sleeping in by pulling back the sheets and closely examining the mattress and box spring seams for any signs of bed bugs. These signs may include living or dead bed bugs, which are the size of an apple seed, or black fecal smears, which can look like a permanent marker stain or trail.
Keep luggage away from bed - Reduce the likelihood of bed bugs hitching on to your luggage by placing it as far away from your hotel bed as possible. Store luggage in the bathroom or another location a safe distance from the bed. Rentokil Steritech research conducted during 9,000 bed bug services in hotels over a year-long period indicates that bed bugs were isolated to 5 key areas on or near the bed in more than 75% of cases.
Check luggage before packing and unpacking - Be sure to examine your luggage carefully as you pack up to return home. Check your clothes for bed bugs as well as any zipped compartments. Upon your return home, re-check your luggage before unpacking to avoid spreading bed bugs to your home.
Wash clothes - It is important to put all clothes stored in your luggage into the dryer upon your return in case bed bugs have hitched on to them. Bed bugs may survive washing, so clothes should be placed in the dryer for at least 20 minutes first to kill the bugs at any life stage. After drying, you can wash clothes in hot, soapy water and then dry again. Heat is the key here, as it is a proven method for killing all bed bug life cycles.
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