Bed bugs also like to travel, which means that as domestic and international travel increases and your hotel starts to see more visitors after lockdown, there is an increased likelihood of these hitchhikers catching a ride in with one of your guests, and then deciding to stay in your establishment.
The life cycle of a bed bug
A single female bed bug lays between one and seven eggs a day, and it takes between six and ten days for eggs to hatch. After hatching, the baby bed bug is called a nymph, and it starts looking for its first blood meal. Immature nymphs moult (they shed their outer exoskeleton) five times before reaching adulthood, and need at least one blood meal between moulting, although they can feed as often as once a day.
Of course, it would help immensely if bed bug eggs and nymphs were easy to spot, but they aren’t. Nymphs are only about 1.5mm long, and in their early stages, both eggs and nymphs are virtually colourless, making them difficult to see, especially on light colored bed linen or carpets.
In addition to being small and hard to see, bed bugs are generally only active at night, remaining in hidden cracks and crevices during the day. Being so hard to spot early on is one of the main reasons that a small bed bug problem can quickly become an infestation. As they mature, nymphs get darker in colour and appear red after feeding.
Young nymphs can survive without a blood meal for up to several months. Older nymphs and adult bed bugs can survive even longer without a blood meal: up to a year under favorable conditions. Under average conditions, bed bugs mature in about 35 days, and can live from 7 to 12 months. You can find out more about the life cycle of bed bugs in our infographic bundle, which you can download here.
What attracts bed bugs?
Bed bugs need blood from other warm-blooded creatures to survive, and while they do feed on animals at a push, they prefer human blood. They are drawn out of their hiding places by body heat and the carbon dioxide humans exhale.
After bed bugs have fed, they return to their hiding/resting places. They remain hidden in cracks and crevices while they digest their blood meal. They may mate and lay eggs before returning to feed again – on average of every two to five days.
When the population reaches a certain size – or if a host isn’t available (for example if rooms have been closed to the public) – they may move into nearby rooms to search for food.
So what does this life cycle mean for your hotel?
Consider the following:
- A single female bed bug lays one to seven eggs each day and can live for up to 12 months … means that it is extremely easy for a small problem to become a rampant infestation very quickly
- Young nymphs can survive without a blood meal for up to several months and older nymphs and adult bed bugs can survive even longer without a blood meal: up to a year under favorable conditions…means that even if no-one was travelling over lockdown and hotels were closed, bed bugs are simply waiting for hotels to reopen.
- When the population reaches a certain size – or if a host isn’t available – they may move into nearby rooms to search for food… means that what may start as a problem in one room can very quickly become a problem affecting your whole hotel.
- They feed on average of every two to five days… means that not every guest in a room with a bed bug problem may get bitten, or complain of bed bug bites.
So what can you do?
Since they usually remain hidden during the day and are hard to spot unless you really know what and where to look, it’s important for hotel employees to know the more obvious signs, as these can help indicate an infestation:
- Small brown stains on bedding (bed bug faeces)
- Small blood spots on sheets
- Moulted skin from the bed bug nymph cycles
- Guest complaining of bites (although some people may not show bite symptoms at all)
It’s also important to know where to look for bed bugs. Be sure to check common bed bug nesting places, like:
- Bed frames
- Dressing tables
- Upholstered furniture
- Picture frames
- Baseboards adjacent to beds
- Folds and tucks of bed linens
- Door frames
- Window frames
Bed bugs can be virtually impossible to eradicate without specialist knowledge, but educating hotel staff can help prevent the problem from spreading from one room to across the entire hotel. To assist your staff in recognising the signs to look out for, download our bed bug infographic bundle to use as a visual reminder.
If you notice any of the signs listed above, contact us for a free pest assessment survey.