Travel today involves a high risk of bed bug hitchhikers

NEW JERSEY - “Not long ago the thought of staying at New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria and returning home infested with bed bugs was unthinkable,” says Leonard Douglen, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association, “but today travel that includes staying overnight anywhere carries with it the high risk of bringing bed beds back home.”

“As bizarre as it might seem,” says Douglen, “today’s traveler has to become a bed bug detective whenever they check into a hotel or motel anywhere in the nation.”

He offered the following advice. “It’s useful to talk to the hotel’s management before checking in to learn if they have procedures in place to eliminate a bed bug infestation. A hotel that shares its prevention and maintenance plan is a better place to stay.”

Upon checking into your room, Douglen recommends that “you take a careful look at all the areas in the room you expect to be using.” Bring a small flashlight with you,” says Douglen and “check for bedbugs where you will be sleeping and chairs you with using. Bed bugs are attracted to body heat and even the carbon dioxide that humans exhale.”

Bed bugs are extremely small, about the size of a sesame seed. “If you spot even one, that means there are others because they breed at a very high rate,” says Douglen. “Take the time to check behind the headboard. Then check carefully along the seams, crevices, and piping around the mattress.”

“You can’t be too careful. Look under the mattress pad and under the sheets. Then check along the edges and underneath the box spring,” says Douglen. “Then check around the joints in bedside tables, including the drawers, and even pictures that might be hung on the wall behind the bed.”

Though it might sound odd—and it is—Douglen recommends avoiding setting one’s luggage on the bed or floor. Instead, “when you first enter, put your luggage in the bathtub. Conduct your inspection and then place the luggage on racks away from the wall. Keeping various clothing items in plastic, sealable bags will protect them from being infested.”

“When you get home, put the clothes, still in plastic bags, into the dryer for about forty minutes. If an item should not be heated, then put it in the freezer and leave it there for two weeks,” says Douglen.

“The problem is so widespread you can even check to find out whether a place you plan to stay has been reported for bed bug infestations.”

“Even guests at your home can bring bed bugs with them,” says Douglen, who suggests asking them to leave their shoes outside. Designate a place where guests can put their coats, purses and other items rather than put them on couches and other furniture.

“This may seem extreme, but a bed bug infestation is one of the most challenging pest control problems around,” says Douglen. He cited a recent article in Forbes magazine that identified America’s most bed bug infested cities. There were three in Ohio, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton.

“Cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. have high levels of tourist and business travelers are among those named by the Forbes article,” noted Douglen,” so that means extra caution is needed if you visit them.”

Founded in 1941, the New Jersey Pest Management Association maintains a website at with information regarding its members and consumer information about various insect and rodent pests.