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Many Americans Are Gearing Up for Road Trips, But So Is This Unwanted Hitchhiker

by Staff
An overhead view shows a woman sitting on the floor in her bedroom, packing a suitcase for a trip. (Getty Images)

An overhead view shows a woman sitting on the floor in her bedroom, packing a suitcase for a trip. (Getty Images)

  • Bed bug activity may increase during the warm summer months.
  • Here’s how travelers can avoid taking bed bugs home after a trip.

As summer approaches, it seems the travel bug has bitten nearly 85% of American adults, according to The Vacationer Travel survey. This figure translates to 219 million adults having plans to embark on vacations in the coming months. The survey reveals that out of this percentage, 40.71% intend to travel once, while 44.05% have even more ambitious plans for multiple trips.

These numbers also indicate a 5% increase in travel intentions compared to last year’s survey, highlighting a growing eagerness among individuals to explore and experience new destinations.

(​MORE: Cruise Ship Stomach Bugs On The Rise)

However, alongside the excitement of summer travel, there is a lurking concern that demands attention – the persistent issue of bed bugs. Unfortunately, the warmer months coincide with a rise in bed bug activity, posing a potential challenge for vacationers seeking a worry-free getaway.

This is further compounded by the ongoing shortage of hospitality staff, as revealed by a recent survey. Shockingly, over 80% of hotels across the United States struggle with staffing shortages, according to data from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). 87% of hoteliers reported being unable to fill open positions, while 82% confirmed facing a staffing crisis.

Increased travel and understaffed accommodations create an environment that necessitates vigilance against bed bug infestations. Although these pests can be found in various settings, hotels and other lodging establishments are particularly susceptible to their presence and spread.

Risks Are Associated With Bed Bugs During Summer Travel

The question of whether bed bugs are more prevalent during this season due to the heat remains somewhat uncertain. However, what is evident is that bed bug activity tends to peak between June and October. This increase can be attributed to the substantial rise in travel during the summer months.

Researchers in the Journal of Medical Entomology shed light on the behavior of bed bugs during the winter. Interestingly, these pests prefer not to travel during winter and prefer staying close to their hiding spots, even when faced with insecticides.

One crucial factor contributing to the spread of bed bugs is their ability to move easily.

According to Christian Tweed, Service Manager at Killingsworth Environmental, bed bugs are typically transferred through contact with objects rather than direct person-to-person contact. This means that your belongings, including the bed in your hotel room, public transportation, or even luggage stored alongside yours during transit, can serve as potential vehicles for these pests.

Tweed essentially notes that bed bugs do not possess the ability to jump or fly. Physical contact between you or your belongings and the items or objects they infest is necessary for them to be transferred.

Preventative Measures for Travelers To Prevent Bugs Infestation

Here are tips to remember to keep you safe from bed bugs.

Inspect Your New Environment

Ben Hottel, a technical services manager with Orkin shows how he would inspect a hotel room for bed bugs at a mock hotel room at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post via Getty Images)Ben Hottel, a technical services manager with Orkin shows how he would inspect a hotel room for bed bugs at a mock hotel room at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Ben Hottel, a technical services manager with Orkin shows how he would inspect a hotel room for bed bugs at a mock hotel room at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

(Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Upon reaching your destination, Tweed underscores the importance of dedicating a moment to inspecting the bed and its surroundings. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

Carefully inspect the edges of the headboard, paying close attention to any crevices or cracks where bed bugs may hide.Inspect the bed skirt for any signs of small, black stains or exoskeletons. These could indicate the presence of prior or ongoing bed bug issues.Look closely at the edges of the pillows, where bed bugs may seek refuge.

Luggage Isolation and Laundry Technique

Tweed offers valuable advice on isolating your luggage and utilizing your washer and dryer upon returning from your travels. Here are the recommended steps:

Upon arrival back home, leave your luggage in a non-climate-controlled area such as the garage or porch.Bring your clothing inside one load at a time. If your clothes are dirty, promptly place them in the washing machine. For clean clothes, it is advisable to dry them for 45 minutes on the highest heat setting in the dryer.Once your suitcase is empty, seal it inside a trash bag, return it to your car, or store it in your attic. Higher temperatures accelerate the demise of any bed bugs present. In sunny weather with temperatures ranging from the mid to upper 80s, a suitcase in a vehicle should be adequately heated within a day or two. In contrast, the attic may require a few weeks or longer, depending on your specific climate.

Packing

Garrett Thrasher, Vice President and General Manager of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal, Inc., acknowledges that while thorough room inspections are commonly recommended, many people may not know what bed bugs look like or what signs to look for. As a preventive measure, he suggests the following strategies when packing:

When selecting luggage, consider choosing hard-sided options without cloth liners if possible. Bed bugs find it more challenging to infest hard surfaces compared to fabric materials, making it an added layer of protection.Pack your clothes in sealable plastic bags to further minimize the risk of bed bug infestations. The bag helps create a barrier between your belongings and potential pests, reducing the chances of unwanted encounters.

A bed bug is seen in a glass tube so that bed bug sniffing dogs could train to find the pests. Bed bugs are not at all uncommon. The bloodsuckers are nocturnal and masters at hiding, but bed bug sniffing dogs can detect the insects. (Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)A bed bug is seen in a glass tube so that bed bug sniffing dogs could train to find the pests. Bed bugs are not at all uncommon. The bloodsuckers are nocturnal and masters at hiding, but bed bug sniffing dogs can detect the insects. (Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A bed bug is seen in a glass tube so that bed bug sniffing dogs could train to find the pests. Bed bugs are not at all uncommon. The bloodsuckers are nocturnal and masters at hiding, but bed bug sniffing dogs can detect the insects.

(Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Avoid Drawers

When staying at a hotel, Thrasher provides these key tips to keep in mind:

Opt for a hard surface, like the bathroom floor, to keep your luggage. Avoid using the hotel drawers, as bed bugs can easily hide in these spaces.It’s best to live out of your suitcase during your hotel stay. This reduces the chances of pests finding their way into your clothes or personal items.Bed bugs are attracted to human scents, including those associated with dirty clothes. To counter this, Thrasher suggests placing dirty and smelly items in a sealed plastic bag, away from your fresh clothing. This segregation helps prevent any potential transfer of bed bugs.Just like with your luggage, keeping your shoes on hard surfaces, such as the bathroom floor, is advisable. This makes it more challenging for bed bugs to find their way into your footwear.

While the thought of bed bugs can instill some apprehension, try to remain calm when you experience an infestation. Contact a professional to help, as DIY methods are often ineffective.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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