2015's summer convention season is about to kick off. But, what should be a time of fun and relaxation with friends can easily turn sour if you find your convention has placed you in a hotel with less than ideal upkeep. Failing services or worn furnishings may be bad enough, but it's nothing compared to the worst potential issue of all: A bedbug infestation. We've collected some tips on identifying an infestation in progress, options to deal with it, and ways to keep it from coming home with you. Keep reading to learn more!
Sometimes it's simply unavoidable. When your convention of choice selects a hotel to act as their venue and house the majority of their guests, it may not always be top tier. While avoidance is always the best answer to a bedbug problem, if you learn of the possibility of this issue too late in the process to change your plans, there are things you can do to try to minimize the impact it will have on your trip.
If present, the possibility of a bedbug infestation is a very serious matter. No one should try to minimize what it means, because these pests can present a very immediate hazard to travelers, and could be an on-going problem if they manage to infest clothing, luggage or other articles brought in. An infestation can very easily be brought home with you where you may find it very difficult to eradicate. We've included a few images to help you know what to look for. If you're disturbed by images of insects or the results of their presence and activity, we suggest avoiding the image gallery at the end of this artcle.
Identifying A Problem
Of course, the most certain way to identify bedbugs is finding one of the bugs themselves. This may not always bee possible, so there are other signs to look for that may indicate their presence. In some situations, you may find fecal traces, that is the droppings of the bedbugs. These tend to present as a number of small, black spots within an small area together. They won't flake if rubbed (but if you believe that's what you've found, we recommend not touching it directly), but will smear if wiped with a wet cloth. These signs may not always be obviously present.
If entering a situation where you believe bedbugs exist, do your best to thoroughly inspect the area. This can include stripping the bed and even removing the mattress to be able to examine it and the box spring in detail in order to find the bugs themselves, or locate signs of fecal activity. Ultimately, you still may not find direct evidence of them. The University of Minnesota has a good guide on how to inspect hotel rooms for bedbugs, which we'll link at the end of this article. But if going to a hotel where their presence is suspected, you might want to engage in protective measures regardless.
Of course the best precaution is to not knowingly stay in a place reported to have an infestation. However, this may not always be possible. If you learn this when it's too late to change plans, you'll want to focus on ways to keep the bedbugs away from you, and prevent infestation of the clothing and soft goods you bring with you. Keep all clothing - clean and worn - sealed in plastic bags to cut off their access. When you return home, if you cannot wash everything right away, leave it sealed until you can/ It's also recommended to thoroughly vacuum your suitcase or suitcases and immediately dispose of the vacuum bag or canister contents. In the case of a canister vacuum, be sure to comprehensively clean the canister after you empty it. Shoes should also be cleaned to reduce the chances of a home infestation starting from them. For items that may be carrying bedbugs but cannot be washed, freezing them is reported to be an effective means of killing any bedbugs that may be present.
While no active preventative can be considered 100% effective, there are some options to try to keep the bedbugs away during your stay. Of course, if on your initial inspection you discover signs of bedbugs, take the issue up with the hotel's front desk and if necessary insist on being changed to a room not adjacent to your original one. And then make sure to inspect the new room the same way.
There's a wide range of opinions on what will repel or even kill bedbugs, from things as simple as a spray of rubbing alcohol, to the pesticide DEET, to things so exotic-sounding as cold-pressed neem oil. While DEET seems to be generally regarded as the most effective specific solution, it can be hazardous, especially used in a closed, confined space like a hotel room. The general theme is something with a smell they don't want to encounter, or a substance that actively kills them when they come in contact. A company called Terramera makes Cirkil, which is supposed to be based on neem oil and is presented as a "biopesticide". This is one of three products listed on the EPA's website for bedbug control. The downside is that we've only found one place so far to purchase it
other than directly from the manufacturer, who requires large quantity purchases. Either way, it's not as simple as going to your local grocery or hardware store. Be advised also that continued exposure to neem oil has sometimes been found to cause allergic reactions to the oil itself, which may worse than the bedbugs you hope to avoid. But above all, don't assume that just because a product says it repels or kills bedbugs that it actually will. And don't plan on using general purpose repellants or sprays. Most reports hold them as ineffective, and unsafe to use indoors in small spaces.
All this in mind, here's my advice: Inspect your room thoroughly. If possible, do so without bringing in your luggage (those driving should consider leaving it in the car until you inspect and feel reasonably safe that there aren't any bugs), but otherwise leave it as far from the bed as possible while you search for the bugs. I would also recommend not bringing your standard luggage if possible. Grabbing a couple of cheap duffle bags that you can either wash with everything else or won't mind throwing away at trip's end may help eliminate a source of new infestation. Since bedbugs will seek out people, keeping your things far away from sleeping areas will help reduce the risk of contamination as well. While it's not an ideal situation to find yourself in, it is one that's controllable and survivable and does not need to become a major sore spot on your convention weekend.
The information in this article is presented as an important information service to ensure the best quality of stay possible for all con-goers traveling to shows this season.