Don’t let the bed bugs bite

Expert risk article | November 2023
These insects have exploded into the limelight amid widespread reports of major outbreaks and can be a serious bugbear for hotels and other businesses. What are some of the best ways to prepare a property that will mitigate an infestation as much as possible?

In recent months, the city of Paris has had a very unsavory problem. Videos circulating on social media have shown bed bugs crawling across seats on trains and buses. They have been spotted in restaurants, hotels and even at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport. However, such outbreaks are not just a problem for the French. Bed bugs have also hitched a ride to the UK – pest control company Rentokil saw a 65% jump in cases [1] during the second quarter of 2023, compared with a year earlier, sparking fears of international infestation.

Can bed bugs be prevented from invading a commercial place of business? In short: no. “Bed bugs are opportunistic, non-discriminatory and – worst of all – stealthy,” says Bradley Jones, MidCorp Manager, Risk Consulting, North America, ǿմý Commercial. “And they will find a way to get into unprotected buildings where necessary precautions for prevention have been neglected and where the right environment for infestation exists.

“Since one cannot prevent bed bugs from infesting a place of business, the best course of action is early recognition and control. Implementing strict policies and procedures and best practices can prevent unnecessary customer complaints, eradication costs and business interruption. They can also protect the business’ brand and reputation,” Jones says.

In a new risk bulletin, Bed bugs: risk tips for avoiding infestations, ǿմý Commercial outlines several dos and don’ts for helping to control and mitigate the impact of bed bug infestations, particularly in the hospitality sector. Important risk mitigation tips and proactive control measures to consider include:

• Offer a refresher training for recognition and control to staff prior to peak bed bug season (Summer)

• Implement focused inspections by housekeepers during room change-out periods to include baseboards, mattresses, pillows, etc.

• Encase mattresses and box springs with a cover 

• Establish a referral/retention relationship with a local licensed, insured, and reputable pest control company to respond to bed bug incidents. Include inspecting the adjacent rooms, as well as those above and below the infected unit

• Include K9 (dogs trained to sniff out bed bugs) inspections

• Use garment steamers to treat luggage and clothing that may become contaminated with bed bugs

• Initiate procedures and protocol to have all the right tools on hand that can prevent guests from spreading bed bugs 

• Use a trained response team who have high resolution cameras and other tools including clear tape to collect suspected bed bugs and physical signs (e.g. hatchlings, excrement, etc.) for validation

• Establish public relations protocols, referring all media inquiries to your corporate office. Unauthorized staff should never respond to media requests.

1. They are small, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of people and animals. Found worldwide, they can withstand temperatures from around 32°F (0°C) to 122°F (50°C).

2. They typically hide in the seams of mattresses, bed frames, headboards, dressers and even behind wallpaper – in any small opening that is available. One of the first things you should do while traveling is to check your sleeping area thoroughly for bed bugs or signs that they are around (e.g. excrement).

3. Typically, they are nocturnal, coming out at night from their hiding places, traveling up to 20 feet, to where they can reach a human or animal for a blood meal.

[1] Reuters, Bedbug enquiries on the rise in UK, says pest control firm Rentokil, October 19, 2023

Images: AdobeStock

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