How to Spot Bedbugs & What to Do If You Encounter Them On Your Travels
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite”, but I didn’t understand it’s true meaning until we starting traveling and came across them ourselves. Bedbugs aren’t a sexy topic but they are a reality that you may come across in your own adventuring and hopefully this article can help you avoid them, or at the very least, help you know how to handle them if you do ever have the misfortune of bedding up with them. Let’s start with some helpful/weird facts about bedbugs that can help you identify these nippy critters.
They Aren’t Just Found In Trashy Dumps & Cheap Motels
We were bewildered that the nice flat we were sharing with a host family could have these pests. The hosts also were not very reactive and a bit dismissive which, perhaps, is a sign of repeat infestation as they are expensive to eradicate. Do not assume that because your place is gorgeous that it is immune to infestation. Other travelers could easily, and unknowingly, carry and leave eggs in their wake.
Recognizing An Infestation
They have multiple appearances- They can look different depending on how old they are, their gender, and if they have eaten (somebody’s blood) recently. As ‘adults’ they most often look like little brownish beetle bugs but as ‘babies’ they are translucent and reddish (you can see the blood they’ve ingested through their bodies). Familiarize yourself with their many appearances so you can recognize them if you spot them. The image on the right should give you an idea of their general size.
They aren’t only found in the bed
They do not just dwell in or under your bed, waiting to feast on you (which is what I wrongly assumed before our encounter). In fact, my first encounter with bed bugs happened when i spotted one making its way up the wall and it later fell on me while I was sitting in bed working on my laptop. I thought it was just a clumsy beetle/bug that lost its grip, but after researching bed bugs later, discovered that it is not uncommon for them to climb walls and end up on the ceiling where they will drop down onto the bed to get to their victims. They definitely get points for ingenuity and persistence but don’t be fooled. Their aerial maneuvers do not make them any less bedbug so when you get to a new place be suspicious of any little bugs crawling on the walls or ceiling, and especially ones that drop from above.
Look for the poop
Bedbugs can be particularly elusive (they are very good at hiding) so just because you never see any with your eyes does not mean there is no infestation. A good practice to get into the habit (and one we now do at every new location we go to) is to strip the bed, lift the mattress and look for fecal signs on the mattress, along the seams, the headboard, and along baseboards/carpet and the ceiling. Bedbug poop leaves a gunpowder look of dark specks wherever they congregate and do their business. If it isn’t too bad an infestation there won’t be much but it should still be visible to some degree.
They bite in clusters
Unlike other blood sucking bugs (like mosquitoes) bed bugs will usually bite you multiple times in close proximity so you will typically see a grouping of multiple bites close to each other.
What to Do If You Encounter Them
Take pictures of everything & report the infestation– If you spot a bug(s), poops, or get bit take pictures of everything as this can be helpful in reporting the incident to the owners, AirBNB, hotel, etc.
Get rid of clothing and items that could have been infested– This can be particularly challenging when you’re traveling and already have a limited amount of clothing but believe me, it’s better to get a new pair of PJ’s than to risk spreading an infestation to your next stop or to your own home.
Wash everything else– On the off chance that your other personal items/clothing were exposed to the bed bugs but aren’t likely to be hiding stowaways, wash everything on the hottest setting possible and or dry clean. Hot steam/water are the only way to kill these little stinkers so there’s really no way around it. We spent an entire day at the laundromat washing all our clothes and even our bags and I had to throw away my pillow, blanket, and PJ’s as well. Better safe than sorry.
Find a new place to stay– Obviously, if you realize you are staying in a bed bug infested location you will want to relocate ASAP. As soon as we realized we were sharing a bed with bugs we were on the phone with Airbnb and finding a new place that day. Within a few hours we got a refund for our stay and were at the laundromat, the dry cleaners, and were in a new place. It’s a big inconvenience but it’s best to get out as soon as possible to reduce your exposure. We were lucky and did not have any hitch-hikers and have had no other incidents in over a year of further traveling. At least we now know what to look for! Lessons learned.
Now we can safely say, “Night, night. Don’t let those bed bugs bite!”