Return of globetrotting bed bugs
Tiny and furtive, bed bugs can easily stow away in travel luggage. If you bring some home, patience, persistence, and diligence will get rid of bed bugs.
The good-night wish, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” may have lost its charm with the recent spate of bedbug outbreaks. Across Canada reported cases of bedbug infestations have increased as much as 600 percent in the past decade.
Tiny and furtive, bedbugs can easily stow away in luggage. With high volumes of international travellers, hotels can be easily infested, becoming hubs where travellers pick up and bring home the pests. If you’re planning a trip, here are some tips to keeping bug-free both abroad and at home.
Review and Inspect
Read online hotel reviews; guests often post bedbug encounters. Upon arrival, inspect your hotel room. Keep your luggage on the floor while you check the bed for telltale reddish or black streaks. Run fingers along mattress seams. Check headboards, bedside tables, and walls. You’re looking for tiny black spots, translucent brown skins, or live bugs. If you find anything, inform hotel management, request another room, and inspect the new room. If worst comes to worst, move to another hotel.
If despite your best efforts you suspect you have had an encounter of the smallest kind, inspect your luggage. Have clothing laundered in hot water (minimum 49 C) and dried on high heat. Or seal clothing in plastic bags before packing so you can deal with the whole mess at home. Once home, place infested items directly into the washing machine, wash in hot, and discard the bags. Again, make sure to dry clothing on high heat to destroy any surviving insects.
Bag delicate material and place in the freezer for two weeks to kill live bedbugs, larvae, and eggs (which hatch within 10 days). In cold winter climates, leave infested items outside during sub-zero weather.
What if, after returning home, you discover bite welts on your body and, worse yet, tiny brown critters in your bed?
First, reduce clutter so that bedbugs have fewer places to hide.
Vacuum daily to reduce bedbug populations. Thoroughly vacuum mattresses, bed frames, and baseboards. Use the powerhead on carpets and rugs, then immediately empty the vacuum.
Steam clean carpets to eliminate bugs and eggs missed by vacuuming. Steam can also treat clothing, bed frames, and even mattresses (though steam is only effective to a depth of 2 cm).
Caulk cracks and crevices where bedbugs can take cover in bed frames, baseboards, molding, floors, and walls. Fix potential hideouts such as loose light switches or peeling wallpaper.
Zippered mattress encasements will stop bugs from getting into mattresses and box springs.
Several herbs and plants can help control infestations. The leaves of the black walnut tree are used as an insecticide against bedbugs. Ground cayenne and garlic-infused natural pesticides can also help.
Finally, a number of organic products promise pesticide-free bedbug control. Ask your local natural health store for an effective product.
Once bitten? Don’t be shy: the keys to natural bug control are patience, persistence, and diligence.