In addition to mites, whose excrement can cause allergic reactions, bedbugs are a major problem in hotels. Bedbugs are ectoparasites, i.e. organisms that parasitically ingest food on the surface of their host. They are active at night and hide during the day in the joints of furniture, door and window frames, mattresses, behind sockets, light switches and decorative strips. They can detect human body-heat and CO2 in the exhaled air, which they use to orient themselves towards humans, over a distance of 40 cm. Bedbugs are haematophagous: They feed on blood that they suck out from blood vessels under the skin. A bedbug bite can also cause an allergic reaction.
Bedbugs travel as stowaways
A bug infestation can become a permanent problem not just in hotels, hostels and holiday homes, but also in student accommodation, hospitals, retirement homes and kindergartens. Bugs are also often found in transportation with high passenger turnover, such as trains, aeroplanes, sleeping carriages, buses, and cruise ships. There is always a certain risk of infestation with pests such as bedbugs in accommodation facilities. Especially hotels with a lot of international guests should be aware of the danger.
With their clothes and luggage, guests can bring the pests unnoticed into the accommodation. Bugs can also enter a hotel complex via personnel or external contractors such as laundry services. There is also a risk from old, uncleaned objects such as antique furniture. Bugs can spread quickly within a hotel. In their search for food, they pass through cracks in walls and doors, crawl along pipes and electrical cables reaching every part of a facility.
Bug infestations cast a poor light on hotel hygiene
If a guest discovers a bug infestation - especially in such a private area as the hotel room or on the mattress - he or she will see this as a blatant lack of hygiene. This will lead to a loss of reputation, and in the hospitality sector this means less bookings. Today more than ever, satisfied guests who see their surroundings as hygienic are vital. Previously, an angry guest would express his displeasure to his acquaintances. Nowadays, guests communicate their anger on rating platforms. An online description of a pest infestation, perhaps with a photo, will discourage potential guests. If a guest draws attention to a bug infestation, decisive action must be taken: It should be communicated to the guest that the incident is being taken seriously, and that the hotel is putting in place pest control measures and upgrading its pest management.
Pest controls should be carried out discretely, to prevent guests from coming into contact with bedbugs and other unwanted pests. Staff should therefore be sensitised to the warning signs of pest infestation. The following signs may indicate an infestation:
- Dead bedbugs.
- Small marks, e.g., on sheets or mattresses. Dark spots can be traces of droppings, while red spots could be residual blood from a bite.
- Light skins in the shape of the bug (exuviae).
- A sweetish smell due to the alarm pheromones of the bugs.
- Bug bites, which typically lie close together, or form a line on the skin.
Vigilant staff can detect bedbug infestation at an early stage. It can then be limited and effectively combated - without the guests finding out.
Heat treatment also combats developmental stages of the bug
Usually bedbugs are combated with pyrethroids. Widespread use of pyrethroids, however, makes the pests increasingly resistant to the toxins. In addition, chemical treatment must be carried out in several cycles to kill pupae, larvae and eggs, as well as the developed pests, and to ensure complete disinfestation of the mattress. Egg deposits in the mattress are not damaged by a single chemical fumigation. The developed bugs are killed off, but the next generation are already growing. Furthermore, if the pests are only sprayed locally with a chemical agent, they simply migrate, which dramatically worsens the problem, because a local infestation turns into a problem in the whole building. Thermal pest control, on the other hand, enables chemical-free bug control, which kills pests in all stages of development. Disinfecting a mattress using heat treatment also combats bug eggs - the guest then sleeps on a mattress that is in fact bug-free.
Spatially limited heat treatment can be used at specific points for pest control in hotels or youth hostels. Treatment can be limited to one room or floor. The rest of the hotel is not involved, and other guests are not disturbed.