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3 ways to tell your hotel has bed bugs

Your vacation is finally here! You sprint out of town, check into your hotel and take an exuberant belly flop onto the hotel bed. No! Wait! Don’t!” Bed bug pest control professionals would scream at this point. Bed bug control experts understand that hotel rooms across the country have reported bed bug problems, and there’s no faster route to a ruined vacation than a night with these blood-sucking pests.

Opened door of hotel room

But surely, you’re probably saying to yourself, bed bugs haven’t been found at the kind of high-class establishments I frequent. Statistics would suggest otherwise. It’s true that in decades past, bed bugs were limited to "flea-bag joints", but in recent years, five-star hotels around the world have been forced to arrange for bed bug control services. Even the Ritz-Carlton, perhaps the hotel most commonly associated with luxury, has suffered infestations. Rooms at the Ritz run from $695 to $4,500 – a hefty enough tab, you might assume, to completely eradicate any chance you could pick up an infestation. However, that's not necessarily the case.

Clearly, people in all socio-economic brackets should be well prepared to scour their accommodations for bed bugs. Below, we’ve listed bed bug control experts’ list of signs your hotel room may have bed bugs.

1. Online ratings indicate a bed bug pest control problem.

Don’t limit your bed bug investigation to the time you’re actually in the room – get a jump start by checking out online ratings before you go. You can simply Google your hotel’s name plus bed bugs, or visit the Bed Bug Registry, a user-created database of 20,000 bed bug reports across 12,000 U.S. locations. If a search of the Bed Bug Registry does turn up an infestation, be sure to check the date – it’s possible management may have eradicated the population through a bed bug control service.

2. You see a scurry of movement when you pull back the sheets.

Upon entry into your hotel room, leave your luggage at the door while you conduct a thorough search for bed bugs. Bed bugs most commonly travel by hitching a ride on luggage, so leave your bags at the door or place them in the bathtub until you’re sure the space is entirely free of these tiny vampires.

Woman in the lobby holding her suitcase.

The first place to check, obviously, is the bed. Pull back the sheets, look at the mattress seams and inspect any cracks around the headboard. Adult bed bugs are rarely larger than an apple seed, while juveniles are comparable to a poppy seed. Their bodies are slightly flattened, and their color tends to be rusty red (adults) or tan (juveniles).

If you spot bugs while conducting this search, chances are the hotel has a bed bug control problem. However, because bed bugs move very quickly and tend to hide during the day anyway, you’ll need to look for one more tell-tale sign of their presence: blood-tinged droppings.

3. You find rusty bloodstains on the sheets, mattress or elsewhere.

This last step is the one bed bug pest control specialists use. If you don’t see any bed bugs, look for their fecal trails: brownish streaks of clotted blood. Chances are that you won’t see any bugs at all, but if you see their poop trails, you know they are present.

For a thorough bed bug examination, use a flashlight to look around the headboard, under the sheets and mattress pad, under the mattress and box springs, and around the base of the bed. Because bed bugs can live anywhere that’s warm and in close vicinity to sleeping humans, you’ll also want to check the room’s furniture. Don’t forget to check the closet; remember, bed bugs hitchhike on luggage.

Western colleague checking for bed bugs

If you see no bugs or fecal stains, the room is probably free of bed bugs. Of course, if you wake up the next morning with bites in groups of three, or to find bloodstains on your sheets, the hotel definitely does have a bed bug pest control issue. And you could too, unless you are especially careful about how you treat your clothing and luggage.

Bottom line: Don’t bring anything into your home until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly vacuum and clean it. Contact your local bed bug control company for more tips on how to avoid transferring a bed bug infestation from a hotel room to your bedroom.

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