What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs, or bedbugs, are tiny, elusive, parasitic insects that live strictly by feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. The name 'bed bug' comes from the insect's preference for infesting beds. They are mainly active at night and quite capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts. Bedbugs are true insects and are not arachnids, unlike dust mites and ticks.
Bed bugs are little vampires
Bedbugs are bloodsucking insects and are normally active at night just before dawn, with a peak feeding period of about an hour before sunrise. They reach their host by walking, or sometimes climb the walls to the ceiling and drop down onto the sleeping human.
Yes, bed bugs do bite
Most bites consist of a raised red bump or flat welt, and are often extremely itchy. The red mark is the result of an allergic reaction to the anesthetic contained in the bedbug's saliva. The bites tend to be in a pattern, with rows of three sequential bites being quite common. This may be caused by the bedbug being disturbed while eating and relocating half an inch or so farther along the skin before resuming feeding. So, if you move a lot in your sleep, you're likely to find yourself with rows of bites when you wake up if a bed bug has feasted on you.
Hotels are a prime campground for bedbugs
Bedbugs thrive in places with high occupancy, such as hotels. New York City has often been cited as a prime place to find bed bugs due to the fact that so many international travelers visit New York City each day.
The bonus? You can take them home with you as a parting gift. When you stay at places such as hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, hostels, or motels, you have a good chance of picking up the bed bugs and transporting them home with you. So, you not only pay the hotel bill, you get to bring the insects home as an itchy souvenir.
Typically the bugs go home in the traveler's luggage where a new infestation can then take place inside the home. Pajamas or other sleepwear usually carry the bed bugs right off of the bed and into a warm suitcase.
TripAdvisor.com's List of Dirtiest Hotels
Trip Advisor released a list of the dirtiest hotels in the United States on January 22, 2010. Included in that list are hotels with a high rate of bed bugs. Tops on the list was the Heritage Marina Hotel in San Francisco, California. Guests voice their opinions about hotel cleanliness on TripAdvisor.com and this guest said it loud and clear:
"When we woke in the middle of the night to find BED BUGS all over the bed, we ended up sleeping in our rental car!"
The top 10 Dirtiest Hotels for 2010 released by Trip Advisor are as follows:
1. Heritage Marina Hotel, San Francisco, California
2. Days Inn Eureka/Six Flags, Eureka, Missouri
3. Tropicana Resort Hotel, Virginia Beach, Virginia
4. Super 8 Virginia Beach/At the Ocean, Virginia Beach, Virginia
5. Quality Inn, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
6. New York Inn, New York City, New York
7. Parisian Hotel & Suites, Miami Beach, Florida
8. Capistrano Seaside Inn, Capistrano Beach, California
9. Desert Lodge, Palm Springs, California
10. Continental Oceanfront Hotel South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida
What can travelers do to prevent bed bugs from hampering their vacation?
Examine the room for potential hiding places of bedbugs, such as carpet edges, mattress seams, pillow case linings, bedboards, wall trim or other tiny crevices in which bedbugs could hide.
Look specifically at the mattress seams for signs of bedbug activity: droppings, eggs, bloodstains or even bedbugs themselves, hiding in tiny folds and seam lines.
Keeping a flashlight nearby while sleeping to immediately observe suspected activity during the night without having to get up out of bed which would otherwise give them time to hide in safety.
Do not leave clothing lying on the bed, or any location of possible infestation and instead, using hangers or hooks capable of keeping all cloth distant from the floor or bed. Suspend new shopping in bags the same way.
Close all luggage when not in use. This way, during the night the bugs may move over the top of the bags and have difficulty getting inside.
Elevating luggage off the floor to luggage stand, tables or chairs, although these can also be hiding places.
Want more information about bedbug infestations?
The BedBug Registry might help. This site helps you check whether other people have encountered bedbugs at a hotel or in an apartment building. http://bedbugregistry.com
Written by Cheryl Phillips
sources: TripAdvisor, Bedbugregistry, National Pesticide Information Center