Home for the holidays? Don’t bring back hitchhikers!

One of the joys of the holiday season is the opportunity to travel to other places and visit with family and friends. This of course involves staying in lodging that you are not accustomed to. Occasionally, those places where you stay overnight might not have the level of sanitation you have at home.

One unwanted hitchhiker you might encounter during your stay away from home and that is making something of a resurgence is the bedbug.

Some might remember bedbugs from their youth and can recount the frustrations of trying to control them. Recently, bedbugs have made a comeback throughout the United States and are now fairly commonly found in homes, hotels, hospitals and residences.

Even though they are not brand new pests, most people have not had a lot of experience with them, and when they do encounter them will (discreetly) ask two common questions; (1) will they hurt me? and (2) how do I control them?

Adult bedbugs are about ¼ inch long, oval, reddish-brown and wingless. Their body is very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and antennae.

Like mosquitoes or ticks, bedbugs require blood in order to complete their life cycle and reproduce. They normally live in or near beds or furniture where they can come out at night and bite (and feed on) people.

If there is good news, here it is: there is no evidence that bedbugs are involved in the transmission of any disease agent, thus are a much less serious pest than are mosquitoes or ticks.

This fact, though comforting, does not significantly reduce the anxiety and nuisance that these pests can generate among those who encounter them.

The effect of bedbug bites varies from person to person, but they normally only produce small red welts that might itch for a short time. The bites themselves are not painful and often are not noticed, especially during the night-time. However, high populations of bugs can disrupt people’s sleep, and the itching can make them irritable.

Just knowing that biting bugs are in one’s bed or home also can cause emotional distress in some people.

Preventing bed bugs from becoming established is the best protection. Acquiring used beds or furniture is especially risky. Thoroughly search for bedbugs or signs of infestation in any bedding, upholstered furniture, or packing materials that might be introduced into a home or apartment. Look for feces, eggs and shed skins, as well as for active bed bugs. Infested materials should be discarded or thoroughly treated before being brought into the home.

Bedbug control is dependent upon a series of management techniques. Our experience has shown that exclusive reliance upon any single method of control will fail to control them.

Frequent inspections, attention to furniture and materials coming into the residence, steam treatments, proper selection and placement of pesticides and mattress encasements are all part of an effective bedbug management program.

It is vital that you inspect any room where you will be staying for the presence of bed bugs. You generally can do this without any extra tools, but a flashlight can be useful. Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping and first carefully inspect and then use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.

Try to keep luggage away from the bed.

Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully. Remember that time in a dryer at high temperatures kills the bedbugs (just washing will generally not kill bed bugs).

Since you might not be traveling again for a while, store suitcases away from your bedroom, such as in the basement or garage. Never store suitcases under your bed.

Here’s to your safe and enjoyable holiday travels and to not bringing any hitchhikers home with you.