Keep bed bug free when traveling

Follow these important steps and inspect your hotel room.

Spring break is almost here and for many individuals and families, that means travel. As you travel to hotels, motels and resorts for a little R & R, you’ll want to do a few simple things to avoid bringing bed bugs home with you.

Our mobile society has contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs. Every traveler should know what bed bugs look like and how to inspect for them. They’re most often found in places that have a high volume of guests such as hotels, motels and resorts. Bed bugs feed on your blood at night while you’re sleeping and then move to hiding places during the day. Those hiding places may be in a bed box spring, headboard, nightstand or your suitcase.

As you prepare for your trip, you might want to consider packing two basic bed bug inspection tools, a flashlight and clear sticky tape, along with the sunblock and swimsuits. The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program and Cornell University have developed “New York State IPM Travelers’ Cards.” This handy resource will help you to identify bed bugs, and remember the steps to follow in your inspection.

Be sure to conduct your inspection before you move your belongings into the room. Leave your luggage in the entryway or the bathroom (areas where bed bugs are less likely to be) until you have checked the room thoroughly. Even if you don’t see any bed bugs, keep your suitcase off of the floor and off of the bed. Use the luggage stand that is provided. First though, take a close look at the luggage stand itself. Check the straps where they attach to the metal.

The main focus of your inspection should be the bed itself. If bed bugs are present in the room, this is where you are most likely to find them. Start with the headboard. If you can, remove the headboard from the wall. Often this is simply a matter of lifting it off of the bracket that holds it to the wall. Check any holes, nooks and crannies on the back of it for evidence of bed bugs, using your flashlight. Also, check the plate that is attached to the wall that holds the headboard. This may seem like a lot of work, but the area behind the headboard is an excellent hiding place for bed bugs.

Next, pull back all of the bedding along the edges of the bed. Look for blood spots on sheets and pillows, usually several black spots in a group. Carefully inspect the piping and seams on the mattress and the box spring.

Look in, and under the drawers of tables or desks that are next to the bed. Also check the drawers of dressers in the room. Some sources suggest not storing your belongings in the drawers at all. Upholstered chairs should be checked, especially around seams, tufts, skirts and crevices beneath cushions. These all provide good hiding places for bed bugs. Check the closet for evidence of bed bugs before hanging clothes, using your flashlight.

If you find evidence of bed bugs, or bed bugs themselves, you can trap them on the sticky tape and notify the front desk. Ask for another room – one that doesn’t share a wall with the room you just vacated. Then inspect that room as well.

It might take a little effort to check your hotel room for bed bugs before moving in, but it will pay off in peace of mind. By following these steps hopefully bed bugs won’t be among the souvenirs you bring home from your vacation!

Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website, www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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