How to Check For Bed Bugs in a Hotel Room

how to check for bed bugs in hotel roomFrancesca Saraco

Preventing the Nightmare of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs. They’re every traveler’s nightmare. You’re exhausted from a long day on business or vacation. All you wanna do is flop down on your hotel bed and go to sleep. But the next day, you notice the bites. You probably won’t even be able to sleep until after you’re home again! We have a little bad news: that nightmare could very well become a reality.

Bed bugs love to travel, and hotels–even really nice hotels–tend to be a hotspot for them.

According to research conducted in 2015 by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky, 74% of surveyed pest-control professionals said they’d encountered bedbugs in hotels and motels within the past year.

What Professionals Say About Bed Bugs

Although this number is second to apartments, condominiums and single-family homes — 90 percent of the professionals said they had found bedbugs in these places — it’s still pretty high. We always recommend travelers take the following steps to check their hotel rooms for bed bugs or head lice etc.

how to check for bed bugs in hotel roomWilliam Carlson

Follow these steps and you can make absolutely sure there aren’t bed bugs in your hotel room.

* When you enter a room, don’t unpack.

Bring your luggage to a clean bathtub or a rack that will keep it off the floor until you have inspected the room for bed bugs.

Bed bug infestations can occur at any time, not just peak travel times.

Hiding in cracks and crevices, the bugs are good hitchhikers and could latch onto luggage and other belongings.

“They’re not discriminating travelers,” said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association.

“They don’t discriminate between a first-class resort or a low-rate motel. You could encounter them anywhere. It’s not just hotels, for sure. It’s hotels, vacation cottages, summer rentals at the beach, Airbnbs, even a visit to a relative’s house.”

Luckily, there are a number of ways to avoid letting the little bloodsuckers become an unfortunate vacation souvenir.

Inspect your hotel room.

Before settling in, it’s worth doing a quick scan of the bed for bed bugs by checking not only the beds, but the couches and armchairs too.  Look at the folds and seams of the mattress, Fredericks recommended, as little dark stains could be a sign of an infestation. If it’s a pretty bad case, you might even be able to see the bugs’ castaway shells or pearly white eggs.

Start with the Furniture!

2. Look closely at wooden headboards.
Although bedbugs are typically associated with clinging to fabric, they can use their claws to grip and climb bed frames as well. peek behind the headboard if possible, as the critters often hide in cracks, according to Michael Potter, an entomology professor at the University of Kentucky.

“The problem is that headboards in many hotels are often quite heavy,” Potter said.
Be careful while peeking, though, or you might end up like Brooke Borel, a science journalist and the author of “Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World.” Borel writes, “In one place, I actually took the headboard off the wall,” she said, laughing.

3. Know what bedbugs look like.
Borel has dealt with three infestations in her time living in New York. It’s important to be able to identify bed bugs, she said, so you can notify the hotel immediately if you spot them.

In the Event You Find A Bed Bug or Other Pest, Preserve the Evidence!

“This isn’t necessarily fun, but if you find a bug in your bed or anywhere in your hotel room, pick it up and put it in a plastic bag or one of those glasses they have in your hotel room,” she said. “Keep it there so you can have proof that there were bedbugs in the hotel room. Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown and about a quarter-inch in length, Fredericks said, while the younger ones are smaller and often have a “creamy coloration.” “They’re crawling pests,” he added. “If you see them jumping or flying, it’s definitely not a bedbug.”

how to check for bed bugs in hotel room

4. Keep your suitcase off the floor.

Although either multiple bedbugs or a mated female would need to stow away to bring an infestation home, it’s worth taking precautions, according to Kenneth Haynes, another entomology professor at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s all a probability matter,” Haynes said, “and you can bias that probability toward avoiding bringing them home by doing those inspections initially.”

Borel knows people who avoid picking up the pests by leaving suitcases in the bathtub.

Checking for Bed Bugs Upon Returning Home

“Traveling is enough of a hassle without all that,” he said. “Anything is possible in the world of bedbugs, but everyone has to make a decision about just how obsessive they want to be.”


how to check for bed bugs in hotel roomJosh Sorenson

5. Unpack immediately.

Bedbugs don’t typically live on a person’s body

“They bite people, and then they leave,” Fredericks said — but they can easily cling to your clothes or the fabric of a suitcase. If you think you might have brought back a few unwanted guests, the best thing to do is expose the surfaces to heat.

“High heat in the dryer for 30 minutes or so will kill all life stages,” Fredericks said.

As for the suitcase? There are luggage heaters invented for this specific purpose, Borel said, though it might be silly to spend big bucks on those. In the summer, there’s a simpler solution.

“When it’s really hot outside, put that thing in a closed car for a day or two,” Potter said. “The [temperature] that a car will heat up to in the summertime if it’s 80 degrees outside will probably be enough to kill bedbugs in a suitcase.”

When in Doubt, Consult a Professional!

6. Keep calm and declutter.

After her extensive experience dealing with infestations, Borel knows the critters can be “quite taxing on mental health.  Reduce clutter to avoid giving them a place to hide.” She continues, “But if you think they might have found a way in, remember that outside help exists. We see and hear horror stories in the news about people that tried to control bedbugs in their home and things went horribly wrong,” Fredericks said.

“We encourage people to reach out to a professional.”