4 tips to fight growing bedbug resistance

(Bedbug Search)

Hotel employees’ ability to recognize problem pests has never been higher, which is the key to catching an infestation before it grows, according to Patricia Hottel, technical director for McCloud Services, a pest management solutions provider. "I can recall going to a hotel and showing staff what a bedbug looks like and they thought it was a tick," she said. "Those days are behind us.”

Now, with bedbugs building resistances to the most commonly-used pesticides in a number of instances, hotels are being forced to work with pest management professionals on ways to combat the pests without allowing them to grow stronger.

Many pest control companies are investigating pre-emptive programs for bed bug prevention, but until they are perfected the industry is relying on early detection.

One reason early detection is so important is because of the creatures’ natural hardiness. According to Paul Curtis, manager of technical services at pest control company Terminix International, bedbugs can respond to pesticides by mutating on a molecular level, growing resistances at a rapid speed.

By using different pesticides in different areas of the country, and then switching them up after a set period of time can help defeat bedbugs who are growing resistant to specific pesticides. In addition, pest management professionals test chemicals on bedbug specimens to see what impacts them and make sure they are using the most effective means to dispose of them.

“Rotating pesticides helps combat this, but you can also make sure you aren’t limiting yourself to using just pesticides,” Curtis said. “Steaming, vacuuming, heat and freezing are all effective methods for fighting bedbugs.”

Pairing these techniques with other integrated pest-management strategies that focus on best practices for prevention will help with the longevity of pesticide effectiveness, and in many cases can be a factor in gaining LEED points for sustainability. However, bedbugs are the ultimate transient pest, and the biggest IPM strategy hotels can latch onto for prevention is educating staff on how to spot them, and what to do after.

“The problem is they are great hitchhikers,” said Cindy Mannes, VP of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. “A lot of it is just awareness and vigilance and educating your staff. They are in those rooms every single day, and they are the ones that need to keep their eyes open.”

Mannes is wary of bedbugs’ growing pesticide resistance, but says rotation and switching up protocols on a case-by-case basis are excellent long-term counters to the problem. “Resistance is a concern with any pest,” Mannes said. “Roaches are the most resilient of any pest. They were here with dinosaurs.”

As for standard IPM strategies to keep pesticides out of your hotel until necessary, keeping outdoor waste containers covered and away from property entry points is a key component. Additionally, air curtains around the property’s exterior and near where food is prepared are effective for both sanitary and comfort concerns.

Drains and floors near food preparation areas should also be inspected, and serving trays for roomservice should be removed from hallways as soon as possible. And while some hotels are interested in using smaller housekeeping carts that can be pulled into a guestroom, operators should be wary that these also work as excellent taxis for pests to travel from one room to another.

“Retraining staff is also very important,” Mannes said. “The folks who knew what to do with seasonal pests last season may be gone, and you always want to be prepared.”