Blog by Jason Rout, Head of Pest Control
When it comes to bugs, there’s nothing worse than a persistent and difficult to spot pest that just won’t go away. Bed bugs are those pests, and can make your life a living nightmare if they aren’t dealt with.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, six legged, blood-sucking insects that typically live in or around beds. They most often surface at night to remain undetected and feed on human blood by biting skin that is exposed whilst you sleep. However, in heavily infested areas they can become starved, forcing them to come out in the day time in search of their next meal.
Adult bed bugs are oval in shape, up to 5mm in length and are flat, with a similar appearance to the seeds found in apples. The colours of bed bugs vary from dark yellow to brown. When they feed, their bodies turn from brown to red.
What causes an infestation?
Despite what many people think, getting bed bugs is not due to being dirty. In fact, bed bugs are notoriously good hitch-hikers and can sneak around in a number of different ways. Whether they cling to your clothes, in luggage or inside furniture, once bed bugs find their way in, they will be as persistent as possible to stay. By hiding inside mattresses, behind wallpaper or even in picture frames, they can be incredibly difficult to find and can go unnoticed for months. With this in mind, it goes without saying that hotels are particularly at risk of an infestation due to the high volume and transient nature of guests.
Bed Bugs are voracious feeders and victims will be badly bitten in cases where infestation becomes relatively mature (three months old). At this point a hundred or so will be present, but if inadequately treated, a single room could support as many as five hundred.
Second-hand furniture is another potential breeding ground for bed bugs and a common route to spreading an infestation, especially when that furniture has been in storage. If these items aren’t thoroughly cleaned, bed bugs and their eggs can be easily transported from place to place.
Why do hotels need to take extra precautions?
Though discovering a bed bug infestation at home can be unsettling, the impact of finding bed bugs in a hotel room can prove far more troublesome for hotel owners. From small bed and breakfasts to luxurious five-star establishments, bed bugs can find their way in.
Hotels are particularly susceptible to bed bugs and are vulnerable to widespread problems due to the high volume of guests passing through. To protect their reputation and ensure guest satisfaction, hotel owners must act quickly to prevent an isolated incidence becoming an extensive issue.
Before booking a stay, guests are now often accustomed to checking online reviews, such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com. These review and booking sites can carry enormous influence on a customer’s purchasing decision. If previous customers have persistently left negative reviews about their visit as a result of encountering bed bugs, the chances are, future customers will seriously consider booking a room elsewhere. Not only will these negative reviews damage the brand and reputation of the hotel, but will have a financial impact if the hotel is not operating at full occupancy.
However, these review sites also provide hotel operators with an opportunity to prevent minor issues escalating. By keeping an eye on guest comments, early signs of an infestation can be detected and a preventative plan put into place, ensuring the issue is isolated. If these early signs are ignored, hotel operators run the risk of rooms becoming unavailable due to an infestation, as well as unsatisfied guests likely seeking compensation for the inconvenience.
How to prevent bed bugs
While monitoring guest feedback will help to minimise an outbreak, there are several things you can do to prevent an infestation, including:
• Ensure used linen is kept in sealed bags and stored away from rooms
• Educate housekeeping staff to identify early signs of bed bugs
• Perform regular checks and room inspections
• Empty hoover bags regularly
• Investigate adjacent rooms if any traces of bed bugs are found
• Seek advice from an expert pest technician and implement a preventative and long term plan
Keep an eye out for the early signs
As bed bugs are nocturnal insects, it’s not uncommon that they go unnoticed. By hiding in the daylight hours, identifying the signs of an infestation can be very difficult. Usually the first sign of bed bugs is a bite on your skin when you wake up in the morning. These bites are most commonly found on legs, arms, neck and hands.
Other signs are dark stains, either on mattresses or surrounding areas, a sickly scent, as well as actual bed bugs themselves.
They are visible to the human eye, despite being small in size. They tend to stay close to their food source, so start by inspecting the areas directly around the bed.
Female bed bugs are capable of producing 300-500 eggs in their lifetime if they have access to a regular food source, so it’s imperative to take action as soon as you suspect there’s an infestation.
Symptoms of bed bug bites and how to treat them
The signs and symptoms of bed bugs bites can vary depending on your sensitivity. Bites don’t always show up immediately, and can sometimes take a few days before symptoms start to show. To make bites even more difficult to detect, bed bugs often go several days without eating, so it could take weeks to notice your bites are part of an ongoing pest problem.
The bites are itchy, and many will often feel burning on the skin for a few days after being bitten. However, when they actually bite you, you won’t feel it. Bites commonly appear as red itchy bumps on your skin, and may cause a rash. They’ll usually fade after a few days, but if they’re particularly itchy, antihistamine tablets may relieve the itching sensation.
With more severe reactions, bites can lead to swelling and blisters to form around the bite site. In these extreme cases, you should contact a medical professional and avoid scratching or irritating these bites, as it will increase the risk of causing a secondary infection.
What to do if you find bed bugs
Treating bed bugs yourself is difficult, and you may prolong infestation if you do not seek professional advice and treatment. Bed bug spray, ensuring clothes and linen are washed on a high heat, regular hoovering and tidying up cluttered areas may help with part of the problem, but realistically you will need to enlist professional help to fully eradicate the infestation.
Expert pest technicians will understand the problems that bed bugs bring, and their habits. They can use their knowledge, expertise and specialist techniques to ensure you are provided with the most effective and long-term solution to getting rid of bed bugs.
Servest’s expert pest technicians have developed a unique treatment and long lasting preventative measure to safeguard your property. For more information or expert pest advice, contact Servest’s Pest Control team today.
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