Bed Bugs: Consider Treatment Options Early
Most hoteliers remember the high level of news media attention on the subject of bed bugs a few years ago when their presence became more evident. But, things have changed since this emerged as a very public issue. For example, with today’s intense use of social media, hospitality patrons have access to untold amounts of information. For hotels with a bed bug problem, social media has had a significant impact on their reputation and revenue. Fortunately, there are steps to help minimize the risks and damages from a bed bug problem. This article from PrevSol Pest Control Solutions will discuss common methods for treating bed bugs and their relative effectiveness.
The Impact of Social Media
An article in the New York Times titled, “For Hotels, Bed Bugs Are Bad Enough, and Social Media Adds to Irritation,” states that "In addition to complaining about bed bugs on Twitter and sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia, travelers use more specific sites like the Bedbug Registry where detailed and negative recommendations can be posted.”
Regardless if the complaints lodged on social media are accurate, they create high stakes for hotels. A University of Kentucky survey of nearly 2,100 travelers in the United States found that a single recent review that mentions bed bugs lowers hotel room values by $38 for business travelers and $23 for leisure travelers.
According to Greg Caboose, a 28-year public health veteran, and Registered Environmental Health Specialist through the National Environmental Health Association, “There is a lack of public awareness as to how they spread. They have an enormously effective ability to travel from place to place in luggage, furniture, on busses and trains and more because they aggressively seek out warm-blooded hosts. Also, their eggs are very small, and they are covered in a sticky substance that allows them to attach to things (luggage, pants legs, vacuums) and be re-deposited elsewhere.”
Common Treatments and Their Effectiveness
Historically, the least effective approach to treating bed bugs involves vacuuming with HEPA-type devices. This is because the work is only as good as the technician. Timeliness and vigilance are also critical, and both tend to be lacking since the work must be done every alternate day for three weeks. Some hotels still use mattress encasements where protective coverings are used on mattresses or box springs to seal them. These can help keep the insects from occupying the bedding, which lessens the time and cost of continually having them re-treated. However, it becomes a real question of return on investment, since the covers – even at $68 per box spring, can quickly become excessive.
To treat bed bugs, hotels most commonly use chemical treatments which include the application of chemical dust on the bed frame and box spring using products such as ‘Bedlam,’ or diatomaceous earth. These can have a very wide range in cost, from as little as $50 per room, to up to the national average of $400 per room. Often, this depends on whether the work is managed by a small, local exterminator or a nationally recognized organization with the focus being on the mattress, box springs, headboards, sofas, and chairs, etc. Unfortunately, chemical applications can lose effectiveness over even a short period of time. What’s more, missing any crevice with the application will mean you’re also going to miss the eggs and the infestation will reappear in the room. Plus, 7 of the 12 species of bed bugs are either immune or becoming immune to the chemicals used in bed bug treatments.
Using a steaming treatment approach can also be helpful. However, care must be taken to keep from making the particle board in the furniture swell. Hence, it may be hard to steam all areas due to the potential for damage, and, there is no certainty that the steam will reach every tiny area where eggs may be present. Consequently, steaming may be the least effective approach. Moreover, it can be expensive, considering that the average cost per room can range from $250 to about $550.
A dry heating system is another alternative. Bed bugs die at 111 degrees and their eggs die at 117 degrees. With a dry heating system, hotels place a portable unit in a room and heat the enclosed area to an excess of 125 degrees Fahrenheit, a threshold at which no bed bug can survive. Pricing for such units can range from about $1,750 to $2,550 per device. Each device can be used to control multiple rooms over a period of three to seven years on average, with some devices effective for as long as 10 years. Plus, the rapid and complete effectiveness means a room can be assigned out to a guest the same day as the treatment, thereby minimizing the loss of patron revenues, while managing customer satisfaction.
When hotel owners anticipate or even expect a bed bug infestation to occur, they will be in the best position to take action quickly. Waiting to research options and to debate which method is best for your property will cost hoteliers in the long run, especially if hotel guests become aware of the bed bug problem and begin posting about your brand on social media.