"Bed bugs are great hitchhikers, so you have to pay close attention when traveling," said Orkin Entomologist and Technical Services Director Ron Harrison, Ph.D. "Bed bugs can find their way into your luggage, whether it is in a hotel, on a plane, train or bus and eventually make their way back to your home. If you brought home just one bed bug, it could reproduce and get out of hand in just a few weeks."
One female bed bug can lay one to two eggs a day and up to 200 eggs in her lifetime. Routine inspections will lead to early identification, which is important to help lower the risk of a severe problem and the need for extensive pest control treatments. Typically, bed bugs come out at night to feed, but during the day, they are most likely found within a 5-foot radius of where people sleep.
Research from the University of Minnesota has also suggested bed bugs are attracted to dirty clothes, so keep them in a sealed bag or container.
"It appears that body odor is one cue for bed bugs that there could be a food source nearby," said Harrison. "It may be an evolutionary trait that leads them to your dirty laundry, which makes sense, so do everything you possibly can to ensure you do not attract bed bugs."
When traveling, Orkin suggests using the acronym S.L.E.E.P. to avoid taking bed bugs home with you.
- Survey surfaces for signs of an infestation, such as tiny ink-colored spots on mattress tags and seams and bed skirts.
- Lift and look for all bed bug hiding spots, including underneath the mattress, bed frame, headboard and furniture. Adults are about the size, shape and color of an apple seed when fully grown, and nymphs are about the size of a pinhead and ivory in color.
- Elevate your luggage on a luggage rack away from the bed and wall, since bed bugs can often hide behind head boards, artwork, picture frames and electrical outlet panels. Luggage can also be placed in a garbage bag or the bathtub.
- Examine your belongings carefully while repacking and when you return home. Always keep luggage off the bed and store it in a closet or other area, far away from your bedroom. Keep dirty clothes contained in a sealed bag.
- Place all your clothing from your luggage immediately in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting upon returning home from travel.