With coronavirus-related travel restrictions mounting, you might be tempted to check into a hotel or vacation rental for a much-needed weekend getaway. But there is one annoying parasite expert who says you still have to be careful: bed bugs.
Although rental properties have been vacant for several months, the blood-sucking pests have not necessarily died. According to the National Pest Management Association, bed bugs can lie between feedings for months.
“Bedbugs can be found virtually anywhere, and while many Americans are excited about resuming their travel plans, it is important to remain vigilant about bedbugs,” said Brittany Campbell, entomologist and research scientist with NPMA in Fairfax, VA.
“Since many hotels have had low occupancy rates in recent months, bed bugs are hungry and can come out to feed in broad daylight – a dramatic change in behavior for a pest notorious for nightly feeding,” says Campbell.
This message probably also gives the heebie-jeebies to vacation rental owners. Can you open your door to tenants (and rental income) again? Exciting. Having to deal with hungry bedbugs? Not as much.
How do you anticipate potential problems that may arise from a bedbug encounter? The following bug experts and property managers have some ideas.
From translucent eggs the size of a grain of rice to reddish brown adults about a quarter of an inch in size, bed bugs can vary in size, according to the NPMA. While the adults can be seen with the naked eye, they usually prefer darkness.
“They like to hide in dark cracks and crevices, behind baseboards and headboards, and they can be cryptic creatures that are hard to find,” says Campbell. That is also the reason why an infestation can remain untreated.
The tell-tale signs of an infestation include small stains on sheets and mattresses that resemble reddish-brown ink stains. Campbell says these spots are usually found in clusters.
You may also see evidence of bug meltdown as the eggs hatch and grow. They look like clear, hollow replicas of bed bugs and can collect on sheets.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of bedbugs is their bites. Bed bugs usually feed twice a week. Bite responses vary from person to person, Campbell explains, but most people will notice an itchy red welt. However, it can take days for it to show up, and some people never respond to the bite. Unlike ticks, bed bugs do not get stuck on a host after feeding.
What to do if you are a vacation home owner
Campbell recommends that owners establish a cleaning policy that will effectively control bedbugs and know how to identify an infestation.
It’s also recommended that all beds have mattress covers that protect the mattresses themselves from insect droppings and ensure that you don’t have to throw away a mattress because of an infestation.
Campbell suggests putting pitfalls under beds to catch live bugs. These traps can alert you to an infestation in good time. Do you want to be extra careful? You can even remove carpets and / or rugs from your property.
Additionally, in the event of severe infestation, it’s good to have an ongoing relationship with local destroyers, Campbell says.
Campbell says that without effective sprays or chemical treatments to repel bedbugs, these steps are the best way to keep an infestation from setting in.
When you’re on the go
Going on vacation soon? You can proactively protect against bed bugs. The NPMA recommends travelers take the following precautions on their next trip.
- Put your suitcase on a tile floor or any surface other than the bed or rug to avoid bedbug hitchhiking. You can also keep your clothes in plastic bags for the duration of your stay.
- Upon arrival, thoroughly examine your entire room, paying special attention to the headboard and bedspread, for any signs of infestation. Live bugs could also hide under lamps, in dresser drawers, and on other furniture. A small flashlight will help with these inspections.
- Pull back the bedding to check the mattress seams and corners for stains and stains.
- If you see anything suspicious, ask to change rooms or furnishings immediately. Don’t stay in the same facility in an adjacent room.
- When returning home from a trip, don’t bring your luggage until it’s vacuumed and visually inspected for bed bugs.
- Contact a licensed pest control professional if you suspect an infestation in your own home.
Houston-based real estate investor Marina Vaamonde, from HouseCashin.com, also recommends checking online reviews before booking a property.
“Make sure that there are no negative statements about the cleanliness of the property. I would then notify the property management and openly ask them if they have had any past problems with bed bugs and what steps they are taking to prevent them. “
Property managers who take the right precautions are happy to answer your questions.