Just over a year ago I wrote a post on bed bugs and it has been one of the most-read posts on the blog. Since then the issue has raised its scaly head again with headlines such as "Bed Bug Epidemic Hits Toronto" and "Toronto's bed bug infestation getting worse" just in the past few weeks.
I felt it time to follow up and get some advice and recommendations from a recognised bed bug expert. Sean Rollo has a great site and active forum at The Bed Bug Resource and I wanted to find out more about the risk of bed bugs for vacation rental owners and ask what owners could do as preventative measures. Sean's bed bug 101 was fascinating although it left me feeling a little itchy and slightly paranoid about checking all my mattresses!
Bed bugs are purpose driven to feed and they do this every 3 – 5 days, making the journey from their hiding place which could be within the mattress; in a crevice in a night table; in a baseboard or carpet, to the host…..that's the one sleeping peacefully, totally unaware they are about to become a tasty midnight meal. You'll never know they are there because of the anaesthetic and anti-coagulant that is injected before feeding commences. Replete and full of your blood, the bugs make their way back to their hidey hole, but should they come across an open suitcase or some clothes along the way, they might find themselves on a trip to a nice new destination in the morning, courtesy of you, the travelling host.
Here's an interesting fact though – human reaction to a bed bug can be delayed for days or even weeks, and given that 70% of people bitten by a bed bug will have no reaction at all, it's really tough to identify where the host was bitten.
Since bed bugs are well adapted for survival, it takes a lot to kill them, and domestic pest control products have little or no effect. I was surprised to learn that our cold Ontario winters are no deterrent although they are averse to extreme heat. A bedbug can survive without blood for as much as eight months and can remain alive in extremely cold conditions.
Sean offered some suggestions to reduce the risk of bed bugs getting into your cottage:
- Avoid buying used mattresses unless you can get them heat treated
- If supplying linens, wash and dry them on a hot cycle
- Launder comforters and blankets regularly using a hot cycle
- Enclose your mattresses fully with an encasement cover
You cannot control what your guests bring into your cottage – in their suitcases, clothes and particularly in the bed linens they bring. All you can do is be diligent in your post rental clean and checking. If you are concerned at all, hire a pest controller to take a look – here's some tips on finding the right one
Post any questions on the message boards at the Bed Bug Resource and you'll get a quick answer.
Finally, here's a nice little graphic courtesy of the California Department of Health Reporting titled Don't let them bite.