FCE Educator Educates Spring Break Travelers About Bed Bug Prevention

With spring break around the corner and travel possibly planned for many young people and adults, the OSU Extension Service is sharing information on how to prevent bed bugs, especially when traveling or stays in hotel rooms.

Janis Risley, FCS Extension Educator and Sequoyah County Extension Director, provides the following information:

“Do you like to travel? So do bed bugs. Bed bugs can’t fly or jump. They travel by crawling. But they move fast! A few simple steps can help you avoid picking up those unwanted passengers on your trip .

“Start by checking out your hotel room before you move in.

In heavily infested rooms, you might smell a foul, sweet, musty odor that has been described as smelling of rotting raspberries and/or moldy shoes. The smell is often strongest under the headboard and mattress.

Feel something funny? Ask for another room.

Put your luggage in the clean and dry tub.

Most bed bugs hide within 15 feet of the bed. Search the upper part of the bed. Remove the blankets, sheets and mattress cover. Look for any signs of infestation, including eggs, insects, blood, or black fecal stains. They are less likely to be at the bottom of the bed. Once you’ve searched the bed, look for the luggage rack. Pull the straps and look for any signs of bugs on and under the straps.

Once you’ve inspected the room and the rack, take your luggage out of the bathroom and put it on a hard surface. Place your luggage on the desk or luggage rack. Never put your suitcase on the bed.

When you get home, take your suitcase to the washing machine. Wash and dry all clothing immediately. Take out your suitcase and clean the interior and pockets, looking for any traces of bed bugs.

“Bedbugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed. Adult bed bugs are wingless, oval, flattened red to dark brown, and about 1/5 to 3/8 inch long. Young bedbugs are smaller and are light tan or red in color. There are two other common species of blood-sucking bugs, the bat bug and the swallow bug. They are closely related to bed bugs and look a lot like them. The presence of bat bugs is an indicator that bats live in the house. Swallow bugs establish themselves in their host’s nests and will invade a home once the birds have left the nest. It is important to identify a suspicious bed bug as the first step in control.

Bedbugs need a blood meal to live and reproduce and they feed almost exclusively on humans. They pierce human skin with a needle-like beak, then feed on blood. When a bed bug takes a full blood meal, its body darkens and its shape changes from flattened to more cigar-like.

Risley said there’s also a need to prevent bed bugs when shopping second-hand.

“Bedbugs are spread when people bring infested, used furniture into the house. Do not take used furniture off sidewalks or dumpsters. This piece of furniture could have been thrown away because of bed bugs.

Be very careful if you buy used furniture or rent furniture. Inspect any used household furniture you bring into your home. It is also a good idea to clean these items.

Risley said bedbugs are difficult to eradicate once established in a home. They will hide on beds, box springs, mattresses and behind the headboard. They can also hide behind pictures on walls, electrical outlets, and even in telephones.

“Do your friends or family struggle with bed bugs? Refer them to the local Cooperative Extension county office.

Remember, prevention is best!

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