Get bed bugs to check out, permanently

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Every hotel guest brings in a risk of a new bed bug infestation along with their luggage, to varying degrees. Photo: onurdongel/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Question: I am having trouble eliminating bed bugs in a luxury hotel. We seem to get rid of them, but then they show up again. What am I missing?
— Being Undeterred, Gathering Good Information Necessary for Greatness

Answer: Thank you for the question, BUGGING. I know that answering a question with more questions can be frustrating, but as I sit here at my desk, I’m not sure what you’re missing.

The first question is, are you inspecting and treating the structure — meaning the wall voids as well as the interior of the room and the furnishings within? Bed bugs often can be found just inside electrical and other utility outlets, and behind or under baseboards. Many times, there is a substantial gap between the bottom of the wall surface and the floor, which is hidden by baseboards. However, usually there is enough room for bed bugs to crawl between the floor covering and the baseboards in commercial establishments.

The next question would be, have you been thoroughly inspecting any adjoining rooms? I have been in hotels that have had reports of activity in one room, but have activity in a room right next door without any reports of bites or sightings. It may seem overly aggressive; however, when you get repeat calls for the same problem, you have to investigate every possibility with an assumption of equal probability. That certainly doesn’t mean you start applying pesticides indiscriminately, it just means you need to thoroughly inspect more areas.

Dan Baldwin

Dan Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS, REHS/RS

Another factor to consider is how the housekeeping operation works in the hotel. I recall one hotel that frequently had bed bug issues at the two rooms at the end of the hallway. These rooms were across from one another; they were not adjoining rooms. There was nothing particularly special about these rooms, other than their location in the hotel. It turned out that one member of the housekeeping team would collect the dirty linens from the rooms in one cart, while other members cleaned and prepped the rooms. The collection cart then sat at the end of the hallway while they finished everything up.

Human activity usually is at the root of bed bug issues, so we have to understand what consistent human activities occur in the hotel.

Once you have looked at all the parts of the structure that touch one another, and have a good understanding of how the staff works in the hotel, you have to take a look at your treatment protocols. This is not to say that you have to question the materials you are using. Rather, you have to evaluate how, where and why you use them. Without inspecting the hotel myself, I certainly can’t tell you which treatment approach or what materials would be most appropriate. But I would suggest that you think about all the structural components and furnishings in the room and ask yourself, “Is the treatment method I am using likely to kill all the bed bugs in and around this area?” In other words, are the bed bugs that might be in the room that you don’t see likely to come in contact with your treated surfaces? Is it the right formulation for the surface?

And, saving the best for last, are you leaving bed bugs behind? Hopefully, you are using an appropriate vacuum cleaner to physically remove bed bugs, as it’s a great tool for most insect pests. A strong vacuum with a crack-and-crevice tool can remove bugs and eggs you didn’t see. Removing insects and eggs from the environment is a vital component of an effective pest management program.

About the Author

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Baldwin is the vice president of technical services for Hawx Pest Control in Tombstone, Ariz. He is also an Editorial Advisory Board member for PMP. He can be reached at

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