As a hotel, motel, or other hospitality business, you want each of your guests to have the best experience possible—and that experience should never include bedbugs. The financial and reputational damage as a result of a bedbug infestation can be extensive. While bedbugs are unpleasant to think about, having a plan to help prevent and mitigate an infestation can help protect your establishment against potential general liability claims and also keep your guests happy and healthy during their stay.
What Are Bedbugs, Anyway?
Bedbugs are oval, flat, brown, wingless insects that are 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. While they feed on blood, bedbugs can live for up to a year without eating, so they can easily transfer from storage and guests’ or employees’ clothing and personal items to the lobby, rooms, and other areas of your establishment. Although bedbugs do not carry disease, they can bite, causing itchy welts, skin irritation, anxiety, and more. Bedbugs are not fond of light and will hide during the day, often in small cracks in walls or between bedding layers.
Searching for Bedbugs
Your hospitality establishment should contract with a professional pest control vendor that specializes in bedbug eradication and control to conduct periodic inspections. Additionally, training all employees, not just housekeeping staff, on how to check for and identify bedbugs is an important part of a control program. The more people who can help recognize potential infestations, the more vigilant you can be in quickly responding to and resolving any problems.
While these insects are small, they are often visible to the naked eye. When conducting a search, look for the bug itself, its excrement, or small blood stains on linens left by a bitten guest. Use a flashlight to search areas such as:
- Sheets, pillows, and other bedding
- The zippers, folds, and tufts of mattresses, pads, and box springs
- Headboard, bed posts, and bed frame
- Sofas, upholstered chairs, and seat covers
- Under loose wallpaper
- Along the edge of the carpet
- Behind objects hanging on the walls, such as pictures, mirrors, light fixtures, and clocks, or inside books
If you do find bedbugs, close off the room from use until it is pest-free. Additionally, search the rooms above, below, and adjacent to the affected area to confirm the infestation has not spread through walls and ceilings. If the infestation has spread, close off these rooms as well until an exterminator confirms the pest is no longer present.
Removing the Pest
Your business should have a plan in place to address any complaints about bedbugs. Train staff on how to immediately respond and the next actions to take. A timely response is critical in order to protect your guests and contain the infestation.
When tending to the guest, consider the following actions:
- Immediately offer a new room away from the infested room.
- Inspect luggage before transferring it to the new room.
- Provide a fact sheet on bedbugs.
- Reassure the guest that bedbugs do not spread disease.
- Offer laundry services for clothing.
When it comes time to remove the pest, there are certain steps to take, such as:
- Consult with a licensed specialist who understands various means of eradication and can provide removal recommendations, including what equipment and pesticides to use.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum throughout the area.
- Properly dispose of the vacuum bag.
- Remove all room linens from the room in sealed bags.
- Decontaminate bedding by laundering and drying in a dryer at 140 degrees.
- Dry-clean any nonwashables. Be sure to inform the cleaner of the situation and reason for bringing the items in.
- Spray or dust residual insecticide on the mattress. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions and label warnings for safe and proper use.
- Store cleaned mattresses in zipped plastic covers for one year before reusing.
- Treat night tables and dressers by removing the drawers and objects inside and spraying them with insecticide.
- Steam-clean carpets. In the case of a serious infestation, removing the carpet may be necessary.
For the best outcome, work with a licensed pest control specialist trained to properly inspect and treat the room. You may also want to consider contracting with canine (dog) scent-detection services before and after the treatment. Should any complaints about bedbugs come your way, contact your specialist for immediate assistance.
While it may not be possible to completely prevent bedbugs, having a plan in place that includes early detection and prompt treatment can help contain infestations and save time, money, and your business’s reputation.