Four tips to control bedbugs in hotels

The prevalence of bedbugs is increasing, and hotels are at the top of the list. Stereotypes of bedbugs combined with the increased social-media-focused society we live in these days have increased the urgency for hotels to alleviate bedbugs, said Claudio Salem, technical service director, Western region for Rentokil. 

There are some relatively simple and easy ways to prevent bedbugs, according to the experts.

1. Training is key. “Hotels need to have a solid training program for housekeepers and other staff to spot bedbugs and know exactly what they are,” said Angela Tucker, manager of technical services for Terminix.

The staff needs to know what the policy is when there are bedbugs present. It needs to be discussed on a regular basis so every person on staff knows what to do when bedbugs are found, Tucker continued. 

Since it’s impossible to prevent guests from bringing in these extra unpaying visitors, it’s all about fast identification and quick response when they show up. “So training all hotel staff in what to look for, and more importantly, who to report it to,” said Orkin entomologist Chelle Hartzer. “That way the issue can be dealt with while it is still manageable and contained as opposed to letting it spread to an overwhelming state. Communication is key to ensure the staff is trained, get reports in quickly and get your provider notified fast.”

A good pest-control provider should be partnering with hotels and housekeeping staff to provide training on recognition and prevention protocols to increase the ability to get out in front of issues, Salem said. 

2. A 360-degree approach should be taken if bedbugs are confirmed to be present in a room. “This simply means a thorough approach to inspection and preventative treatment should be taken for the room where they were found, the two adjacent rooms next to the room where evidence was found, as well as the rooms above and below the room,” Salem said. This ensures that the bedbugs have not spread to nearby rooms, preventing the possibility of return visits and treatments.

If bedbugs are detected in a room or rooms, don’t forget to inspect the housekeeping carts carefully so you aren’t unintentionally spreading pests to other rooms, Hartzer said. 

3. There are a number of treatment protocols when bedbugs are found, such as inspections carried out by specially trained dogs. This is a costly option but it's becoming more prevalent in the battle against bedbugs, Salem said. New chemical treatments also are becoming more efficient at treating bedbugs. 

These chemical treatments enable a room to be turned quicker versus previous years when a room would be out of rotation for 48-72 hours. Once bedbugs are noticed, it's recommended that chemical treatments be used in concert with heat treatments to ensure that all active stages of the bedbug life (egg casing to adult) are addressed and treated effectively.

4. Tucker suggests hotels use bed encasements because they allow for easier inspections and easier treatments. “The bugs will go to the cracks and crevices and with encasements, they are only along the zipper now,” she said. “It changes the bedbugs' behavior.” 

How to treat outdoor pests effectively

Outdoor pests can be a real pain in a hotel setting—guests don’t want to see rodents in courtyards and around pools or swat away mosquitoes.  

With many pests, it is about exclusion and taking away harborage opportunities, Salem said. “Outdoors, it’s important that landscaping is managed effectively to ensure nothing is overgrown or intruding upon property lines,” he said. “Overgrown brush, weeds and plants are good ways for pests to seek and find harborage, water and shelter. Vegetation management is critical to protecting the outside areas around a hotel property.”

Sanitation is another key to avoiding outdoor pests, Hartzer said. “All these pests (like all living things) need food, water and shelter,” she said.  “So eliminating, or limiting, these will have pests going elsewhere to find what they need. Remember, it’s not just guest areas such as the front entry and pools, it’s also the back-of-the-house dumpsters and employee areas that need to be kept clean.”

Hartzer said hotels need to ensure there are no water leaks around the building and don’t overwater the landscape areas. “Keep landscaped areas neat and trimmed back,” she continued. “Overgrown areas that don’t receive much attention are safe habitats for pests.”

A great way to detect outdoor pests early is through regular outdoor inspections of bait systems, looking for signs of nest building (birds, holes, burrows, hornets nests, etc.) on the underside of eaves and general visual inspections of the building and other structures, at least every 30 days, Salem said. 

“Regular inspection of [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] units, whether on rooftops or on the ground, is a critical activity to ensure bird or wasp nesting is not an issue,” he said. 

Tucker said hotels should engage in regular pest control with a complete exterior inspection of the property that identifies risk areas and provides recommendations for barrier protection.

How technology helps with pest control 

There are a number of new technologies in pest control that help hotels, from keeping them informed of pest pressures through cloud-based online portals to energy-efficient electronic insect traps and rodent monitoring systems. “When it comes to pest-control technology, there’s always something new—new chemicals, monitoring devices, remote monitoring,” Tucker said. 

Technology has made it easier to text, email or call a pest-management provider for quick service and even send high-quality pictures to obtain quick confirmation of pests. Photo credit: Rentokil

Pest-management companies are making use of technology to improve communications between them and hotels, which helps them keep out of sight until needed. Pest-management professionals are deploying remote monitoring equipment to either alert either the hotel or the pest-management company. 

The industry is flush with technology solutions, Salem said. Rentokil Steritech’s PestNetOnline is an online reporting and analysis portal that allows customers to be in control of their onsite pest management 24/7. Available on multiple devices, PNOL provides customers with access to pest activity information, recommendations, interactive floor plans and proof-of-service documentation to ensure business customers can stay up-to-date with their pest-management programs. 

This system records pest activity and provides the customer with recommendations that are collected on the specialist’s personal digital assistant. The PDA then transmits data in real-time, via radio signal, into the cloud. Once in the Rentokil system, proof of service documentation is sent to the customers — updated and accessible through the customer’s individual portal.

Hartzer agreed that technology has helped the interaction between hotel management and pest-control companies. “There is a lot more awareness with hotel staff on what pests may be present and what to look for,” Hartzer said. “Technology has made it easier to text, email or call your provider for quick service and even send high-quality pictures to obtain quick confirmation of pests.” 

What may not be as visible to hoteliers is how technology is impacting pest control behind the scenes. For example, with Terminix’s acquisition last year of Cooper Pest Solutions, the company is evaluating the Cooper’s no-prep system to potentially turn it into a hybrid system with Terminix technology. 

“Customers should always look at their current vendor and ask what they are offering you,” Tucker said. “A perfect time to do this is when renewing the contract. Ask them: what is new today and how are you improving and changing technology?”