After the brutal cold of winter, people across the country are looking forward to packing their bags and jetting off to warmer destinations this spring. But before the fun in the sun can begin, it’s important to be aware of a pest you do not want hiding away in your luggage on the trip home – bed bugs. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers, which means that if you’re not careful, good memories and a tan may not be the only souvenirs you bring home from spring vacation.
How do Bed Bugs “Hitchhike?”
Bed bugs do not have wings and are therefore unable to fly; however, that doesn’t stop them from traveling near and far with their excellent hitchhiking abilities – often hiding away in suitcases, boxes and shoes. Bed bugs are known as good travelers because of their ability to survive in temporary habitats, such as backpacks and personal luggage, as well as underneath the seats in cars, buses and trains.
Although bed bugs are typically found in bed parts like mattresses and box springs, they can also hide themselves behind baseboards, wallpaper, upholstery, picture frames, electrical switch covers, and in the crevices of furniture – so they are not always easy to spot.
Most travelers might expect bed bugs to only be a problem at hotels. However, the National Pest Management Association’s 2018 Bugs Without Borders research found these pests are even more prevalent in homes and apartment buildings. Spring travelers opting to book lodging through home-sharing services should still be on the lookout for bed bugs. No matter where you stay, follow these bed bug prevention tips to ensure worry-free vacation travels:
When You Arrive At Your Destination:
Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard, under lights, and inside dressers, drawers, sofas and chairs.
Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams and box springs, particularly at the corners, for pepper-like stains, spots or shed bed bug skins.
Place suitcases in a plastic trash bag during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
Do not place luggage on upholstered surfaces. The safest place is in the bathroom in the middle of a tile floor or on a luggage rack after it has been thoroughly inspected. Do not use a luggage rack if it has hollow legs, where bed bugs may hide unseen.
If you suspect your room is infested, notify management and request to change rooms immediately. Be sure to avoid rooms next to and above/below the suspected infestation, as bed bugs can easily move and spread via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets.
When You Arrive Home
Inspect your suitcases outdoors before bringing them into the house.
Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing it. A garment hand steamer is preferable because it can kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have traveled home with you.
Wash and dry all of your clothes - even those that have not been worn – on hot cycles.
Keep clothes that go to the dry cleaner in a sealed plastic bag until they can be transported.
After your trip, if you unpack and suspect you may have brought bed bugs home, contact a licensed pest control professional as soon as possible. Once bed bugs enter a household, they’ll quickly make themselves at home and are extremely difficult to get rid of.