What to do when pests want in to your hotel

The approach of winter always pushes pests indoors. Lower temperatures and restricted access to food entice them to visit hotels to check in until spring arrives, and many of them start the move in fall. Steve Kuhse, a board certified entomologist and technical specialist, entomology and regulatory services for Terminix International, said “occasional invaders” are the most common pests in hotels once temperatures begin to drop. These include ground beetles, crickets, earwigs and spiders. 

“By definition, they often don’t have the means to reproduce or survive indoors but appear in large numbers and cause a nuisance to guests,” Kuhse said.
In fact, the majority of the pests that inhabit hotels during fall and winter aren’t a problem until the end of the season. Many insects are looking for a place to hide from the cold for several months and only appear when favorable conditions return. According to Ron Harrison, technical services director for Orkin, these conditions can happen long before the end of winter, leading some hotels to believe they have a large infestation when in fact it is the insects’ biological clock tricking itself.

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“The problem is when [pests] are in a hotel for a while and a warm, sunny day rolls around, it could get warm where they are,” Harrison said. “They could become active earlier than normal, often a problem from January to March. There is usually no food for them outside, so they stay indoors.”

Because of this, prevention is the main action for hotels to take. Pat Hottel, technical director and board certified entomologist for integrated pest-management company McCloud Services, said to keep doors closed and well sealed, and to seal up any cracks or crevices in a building regardless of how high up they are. Hottel used cluster flies as an example of an overwintering pest that finds the weak areas in a structure to enter.

“Cluster fly adults will often move up a structure, so on the warm sides of a hotel (the south and northwest sides), hotels should reseal cracks during a January thaw to prevent their entering an occupied space,” Hottel said. “They have no relation to house flies, but they look similar and guests associate them with unsanitary conditions.”

Five tips for a pest-free winter
Here are five tips for controlling pests during fall and creating an environment of prevention in the months leading up to it.

1 Keep all doors closed when not in use, and invest in door skirts or brushes to keep pests from crawling in between gaps. Also, if your property has automatic doors, adjust the timing on the doors so they are not open for long periods after a guest passes through.

2 Though it’s never a bad idea to start prevention efforts, fall-proofing is most effective when started in the summer. Once the weather begins to cool, insects will immediately begin moving inside. If you can frustrate them early on, your property can avoid some of them altogether.

3 Light traps can be installed in false ceilings or other areas where pests like to hide from humans, and they can effectively gather pests when they are out of sight. Even if extermination cannot be achieved, these traps can help draw pests out of the way of guests.

4 Sealing cracks and crevices on the outside of your property is essential, but sealing them on the inside can also serve as a second level of defense. In some cases, pests that make it through the outer wall can be free to hibernate without ever entering the property if the interior is properly sealed.

5 Plan ahead. It’s difficult to service a hotel in cold conditions because pests often are already hibernating, making many pesticides ineffective because they rely on ingestion. 

Source: Orkin, McCloud Services, Terminix International

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