Bed bugs can be a nemesis for hoteliers, but there are ways to bite back

It hard to imagine two words that strike fear and loathing into the hearts of hoteliers more than these: bed bugs.

The good news is that there are effective ways to deal with these creepy pests, and prevent and treat infestations.

Jim Fredericks, senior vice president for public affairs, National Pest Management Association, said the first step is to team up with a good pest management company.

“It’s not about reacting,” he said. “It should not be a case of, ‘If I find bed bugs in a room, I'll call a pest control company and they take care of it.’ It really should be about a partnership that supports an integrated, comprehensive approach.”

Fredericks recommends developing with your pest control provider a program that includes proactive monitoring and treatment when necessary, and then ensures the treatments were successful and that infestations haven't spread.

He added that bed bugs can travel from room to room, so if they’re identified in one room, it’s a good idea best to treat adjoining rooms, also.

Take the Fight to the Bugs

John Harvey, Truly Nolen commercial regional sales manager for Florida, said when dealing with bed bugs, the best defense is a good offense.

“First and foremost, we're very proactive with our servicing,” Harvey told Hotel Management. “We thoroughly inspect rooms for our hospitality partners, looking around bed frames, mattresses, box springs and other furniture in the immediate area such as nightstands.”

Truly Nolen encourages its hotel partners to invest in encasements for mattresses and box springs. “Those do a great job preventing or mitigating an infestation because the bed bugs can't penetrate the mattress or box spring,” he added.

The company also uses bed bug monitoring devices to help identify the location and extent of potential infestations quickly. Depending upon what is identified by the monitors, Truly Nolen’s personnel can make a determination of how severe the infestation is and then recommend the most appropriate treatment options, including heat or chemical treatments.

Put a Bounty on Their Heads

According to Jeff Zimmerman, BedBugHeatDoctor/Prevsol national sales director, over time bed bugs can develop immunity to chemicals that have been effective against them in the past.

That’s why he is a proponent of killing bugs with heat. Prevsol room heaters, Zimmerman said, are brand-approved by a number of major hotel chains, including IHG, Best Western, Choice, and Red Roof.

The heaters are designed to bring a room up to 140°F—slowly, so that by the time the bed bugs realize what is happening, the temperature is already fatal to them.

“Our heaters are easy enough for housekeeping or maintenance staff to use, and they can be rotated throughout the hotel every day,” Zimmerman said. “That means hoteliers don't lose revenue after the first day because they can have the room sterilized and back in service in 24 hours.”

Zimmerman also suggested offering a stipend to housekeeping staff to engage them in the battle against bed bugs. “Pay your housekeepers $25 if they find bed bugs,” he said. “They know the rooms better than anyone and they’re going to find any bed bugs before you ever have a guest complaint. That $25 you give to a housekeeper could save you thousands in lost revenue, damage to your reputation and potential lawsuits.”

Protect Your Brand

Fredericks concluded by suggesting asking your pest control partner to provide training for your housekeeping and maintenance staffs.

“It's very important that housekeeping and maintenance are trained to recognize the signs of bedbug infestation,” he said. “They're going to be the folks who are moving a bed or working around mattresses or cleaning out drawers, and it’s so much better for housekeeping or maintenance staff to identify a bedbug infestation as opposed to a guest.

“Ask your pest control provider if there's training available,” Fredericks added. “Remember, it’s not just about bedbug prevention and control. More importantly, it’s about protecting your brand.”