Hotels and Pests: How Scared Should I Be?

Hotels and Pests: How Scared Should I Be?

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Of all the recognized pests in the world, insects are certainly the most feared by homeowners and travelers. Cockroaches, ants, bed bugs, and even spiders and scorpions from the arachnid family can regularly be found lurking in hotel rooms. Add to this flies and even rodents and it can be a daunting prospect when it comes to staying in a hotel. Thankfully, many hotel managers use pest control frequently, but keeping hotels pest-free can be a challenge.

So, when it comes to hotels and bugs, how scared should you be? Two of the most common bugs to infest hotels are cockroaches and bed bugs. Since these bugs can travel in a person’s belongings, hotel guests should be extra cautious and vigilant in inspecting a hotel room for these bugs.

Most of the time staying in a hotel will not present any problems with pests, but even the swankest and upscale of lodging establishments can have problems with bugs. In this comprehensive user guide, we will explore everything you need to know about hotels and bug infestations. Some of the statistics may surprise you but rest assured that we will also cover how you can thoroughly inspect a hotel room and steps to take when coming home.

What Types of Pests Infest Hotels?

When you think about it, hotels are no different from other structures that bugs infest, such as residential homes and even office buildings. Many common pests like to live in dwellings where humans live or spend long amounts of time. Humans provide food and water for most pests, and in the case of bed bugs, humans are the food. Virtually all types of bugs that infest homes can be present in hotels, but cockroaches, rodents, ants, and bed bugs are the most common.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches are a worldwide pest, and this bug is notorious for infesting even the nicest and cleanest of hotels. Unlike bed bugs (more on this pest below), cockroaches generally do not have to be brought into a structure; rather, the insects find ways inside of a building from the outside.

Since cockroaches can thrive from food and drink residue in addition to moisture in bathrooms or even small kitchen areas, the pests can easily hide throughout rooms and move easily from room to room via the walls. Once roaches set up their home inside a room or the wider building, they hide during the day and come out to feed and drink at night.

Hotel management will frequently have a colossal task on their hands once a cockroach infestation breaks out because every room in a building will need to be inspected and treated, as well as the walls, in order to eradicate the problem.

Perhaps worst of all, female cockroaches can lay eggs inside of luggage or clothing, or even hide inside your belongings and travel back home with you.

Rodents

Perhaps not as common as cockroaches and bed bugs, but still a major problem is the prevalence of rodents in hotels. In the same manner, like cockroaches, rodents will use the walls that connect all the rooms to travel around the hotel and usually make their nests. Since this pest is easily seen and heard, hotel management can address a rodent outbreak much quicker than the silent and creepy behaviors of cockroaches and bed bugs.

In hotel rooms, rodents can of course bite if provoked but the biggest cause of concern for their presence is certainly the potential of spreading harmful diseases to guests and staff. Cockroaches also spread germs and disease but rodents and the diseases they spread could potentially lead to hospitalization if contracted by a human.

Rodents can typically be identified by either visually seeing them or the presence of halls in the walls and/or gnawing and clicking sounds coming from the walls at night.

Ants

Ants have a reputation for being an annoying but not overly creepy type of pest infestation. When you have an ant outbreak, this is usually due to easy entryways for outside ants to access the structure and the presence of sweet aromas from spilled or discarded sweet foods and drink that draw the ants in.

In hotels, ant infestations are commonly seen on the ground floor units, and the threat posed to guests is more cosmetic and unsightly than any potential harm or danger posed by the ants. Hotel management can typically handle an ant invasion quickly, yet there is still the bad look this can present for the hotel when outside insects have invaded a room.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are undoubtedly the worst of the worst when it comes to hotel pests. Along with termites, bed bugs are the doomsday scenario when it comes to pest infestations, and measures to eradicate the bugs can take weeks, months, and potentially thousands of dollars depending on the size of the infested unit.

Lawsuits can be passed around freely when it comes to bed bugs since hotel guests run a very high risk of taking the bugs home with them as well, by which their homes become infested. This pest lives on and with humans, therefore, the pest cannot exist without human beings of which hotels see a revolving door or guests every day of the week.

The bugs are initially brought in by people and in as little as a few months, an entire hotel building can become infested due to the razor-thin anatomy of the bugs and their amazing ability to hide and avoid detection.

Once one guest leaves, the bugs can use their antenna to hunt down CO2 emissions and body heat from nearby humans and travel through the walls to infest another room.

Bed with soft pillows at home
Image credit: NewAfrica, Deposit Photos

Hotels and Bed Bugs: What You Need to Know

Since bed bugs are such a major problem with hotels and motels, an entire section is needed to describe this major problem.

The behavior of the bed bug is universal across the world, and this is due to the need for the bug to ingest human blood to survive and reproduce. Bed bugs don’t care if a structure is messy or clean; they just want a good hiding spot and a food source: you. You are most likely to be exposed to bed bugs in areas with a high turnover of people who spend the night, including hotels, hostels, apartment buildings, hospitals, laundromats, and nursing homes

Still, bed bugs can infest almost any area like an office building, gym, or store but the most likely place for continued and easy exposure is a hotel.

If you spend time in an area with bed bugs, they can hitch a ride home with you by hiding in your gym bag, purse, luggage, or items you keep near a sleeping area. Apartments and hotel buildings are at the greatest risk of large-scale bed bug problems, and studies have shown that bed bugs can spread to units adjacent to, above, or below a structure with the original infestation. They may walk right out the front door of one room and into the next, move through cracks in walls, and infest common areas.

When it comes to the placement of bed bugs in hotel rooms, the bed is likely the spot where the entire infestation will be concentrated. Additionally, a nightstand, any furniture in the room, the closet, or even the alarm clock could be a harborage spot for the bugs.

The insects want to be as near to humans as possible since they are nocturnal and prefer to feed on blood at night when a person is asleep and unaware of their surroundings. With this in mind, the kitchen or bathroom is likely not a place where bed bugs will hide. Once asleep, the bugs will crawl on your body and inject their beak into your skin to extract blood; a chemical is also released by the bug to numb the area and mask the sting as not to awaken the host.

Since hotels cannot implement thorough inspections of prospective guests and their belongings, it’s really a coin toss with an unknown outcome on whether guests are bringing in the bugs. This is why a thorough inspection of the room is so important before your stay.

Should I Inspect a Hotel Room Before Renting?

If a hotel respects its guests and is dedicated to providing a clean and comfortable stay, the management team will be sure that each room is thoroughly inspected during the cleaning process. But certain pests might be missed by an inspection and therefore, there is nothing wrong with wishing to inspect a room for pests before your stay.

If a hotel doesn’t allow this practice, then by all means go through the check-in process and then follow these steps once you enter a room.

Inspecting for Cockroaches

Toxic equipment for cockroach infestation
Image credit: IgorVetushko, Deposit Photos

Roaches are fairly nocturnal creatures, therefore, it can be a challenge to find them immediately since turning on the lights will send them into hiding. These pests are drawn to food and moisture; they are also drawn to waste and clutter, but this (hopefully) would not be an issue with a hotel room.

With this in mind, the bathroom and any kitchen area would likely be the primary hiding and nesting spot for cockroaches. If there is no kitchen, be sure to thoroughly inspect any cooler or refrigerator that may come with the room as well as a microwave or coffee pot. Be sure to look underneath and inside any appliances and also inspect the trashcan and area near it.

Turn on the closet light and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams of the walls. Alternatively, you may also want to check the laundry area or any area where food is prepared or disposed of since these pests can travel back to rooms from these areas.

Inspecting for Rodents

Small rats looking for food
Image credit: IgorVetushko, Deposit Photos

Finding evidence of rats and mice can also be a challenge since, like cockroaches, the pests could be hiding in the walls and only coming out to eat and drink. Obviously, there could be instances where you immediately see rats or mice as soon as you walk into the room and they scurry back to their hiding places.

The biggest sign to look out for with rodents is holes in the walls. Be sure to check along all the baseboards throughout the entire perimeter of the room. Any hole, no matter how big or small, could very well be proof that rodents are present or were in the past. Additionally, be sure to check underneath beds or sofas/couches as this could also be a nesting spot for rodents.

Apart from this, there are not other ways to really rule out the presence of rodents in the building. Obviously, if you see drops of excrement in corners of the room or even out in the open, this is a tell-tell sign of rodents, as well as hearing clicking, squeaking, or gnawing noises at night either in the room or coming from the walls.

Inspecting for Ants

Black ants on the floor
Image credit: NewAfrica, Deposit Photos

Inspecting for ants in a hotel room is perhaps the easiest inspection to check for. Ants will typically for a line of workers along the edges of the walls, around the doorframe, from windows, or even the ceiling. Simply walk through the room paying close attention to these areas.

If you see ants, follow the colony line all the way to the source of what it is they are consuming. Notify hotel staff immediately of the problem, and ask for another room. Ants are not a make-or-break type of pest since they can easily get into a room from the outside and typically do not pose any dangers to humans in any way; however, this is a decision that will ultimately be up to you.

Inspecting for Bed Bugs

Parasite infested dirty linen in bedroom
Image credit: AndreyPopov, Deposit Photos

When it comes to inspecting a hotel room for bed bugs, the entire room should be thoroughly inspected since the bugs may be hiding away from the bed.

During the day, and even at night if no hosts are in the room, bed bugs will be in hiding. More often than not, the bugs will be hiding and nesting in or underneath the bed or very close by since this is where people spend long amounts of time.

First, be sure to take all of your luggage and place it inside of the tub or shower in the bathroom where bed bugs are not likely to be. This will prevent any bugs from latching onto your luggage. Then, you will want to inspect the bed.

Begin by pulling down the sheets and blankets and lightly shaking the pillows; do not let any part of your body or clothing touch the bed at any time. Then, take the pillowcases off and inspect the seams and corners of the pillows; once these items are cleared, pull back the fitted sheet until only the mattress is exposed. Check the seams and folds in the corners of the mattress for living or dead bugs.

It would be helpful to check the entire perimeter of the corners of the mattress. Additionally, be on the lookout for stains that resemble mold or mildew as this is likely bed bug feces and dried blood, which points to present or past bed bug activity. If the mattress is clear of these signs, you will then want to hold up the mattress and inspect underneath it or see if there are bugs clustered or moving around.

If clear, there is still the box spring and headboard to inspect. For the box spring, this will present a challenge but it is worth inspecting this structure since this is the most popular hiding spot on the bed for these insects. If the bottom side of the box spring is opened, you can remove the mattress and coverings and flip the box spring over for inspection.

Using a flashlight, check the interior of the box spring; the bugs will likely be attached to the corners or on the fabric that resembles fiberglass. If the box spring is not open and has a sheath on the bottom side, just inspect for signs of bugs and be on the lookout for those mildew-like stains. You will not be able to remove the sheath on the box spring and will just have to make a judgment call if all other areas of the bed seem fine.

For the headboard, this is tricky; bed bugs can fit into cracks and crevices as thin as the width of a credit card, therefore, you can try and place your finger on the cracks and see if antenna pop up based on the body heat or, you can lightly breathe on the cracks since bed bugs seek out CO2 to find humans.

Follow the same procedures for all chairs, couches, nightstands, and be sure to inspect the baseboards as well.

This is a lot of work, but this is a surefire way to have peace of mind before you stay the night. Having bed bugs crawl all over you while sleeping is bad enough, but bringing these insects home is something you do not want.

Pest control specialist in hazmat suit
Image credit: ParStud, Deposit Photos

Pest Control in the Hotel Industry

Almost all reputable hotels have, at the very least, thorough quarterly or bi-annual pest control throughout the entire property and every room. Pest control professionals know exactly what to look for concerning all the pests we have discussed and will typically administer all-purpose chemicals in each room to control insects moving through the walls.

It never hurts to ask a hotel representative what their pest control policy is, and most will have this information listed on their website.

What Is the Purpose of Pest Control in Hotels?

The purpose of pest control in hotels is to keep pests out of hotels or, at the very least, controlled with residual chemicals if guests bring in pests. For pests that come into rooms from the outside, pest control professionals will also thoroughly treat the outside areas and seals around windows and doors to create a barrier keeping pests out.

For bed bugs, the situation is a bit trickier. Most of the time, there is no way to outright prevent bed bugs in hotels since the bugs are brought in and do not survive outdoors. This is why hotel management appreciates guests reporting bed bug activity as soon as possible so the situation can be handled before a building-wide infestation occurs.

In bad areas like big cities, most hotel staff uses a hotel pest control checklist to inspect for bed bug activity when cleaning rooms, and in these areas with high activity, bed bug treatment with powerful residual chemicals will likely be part of a quarterly or bi-annual pest control treatment for a property.

Hotel housekeeping maid
Image credit: IgorVetushko, Deposit Photos

Importance of Housekeeping in Pest Control

Hotel housekeeping is a vital tool in preventing pest infestations in hotel rooms and other areas of a hotel. When cleaning, room attendants can inspect for the presence of bugs and create a highly sanitized environment with no clutter with each check-out and check-in.

Clean rooms go far in preventing pest infestations, and if room attendants know what signs to look for in checking for bed bugs or even rodents, the presence of these pests will be diminished greatly.

This can also help to prevent guests from bringing pests home with them, and bad rankings online which can drive down the traffic of a hotel.

Summary

In closing, you shouldn’t let pests scare you away from using the convenience of a hotel room. We all have to use hotels at some point in our lives, and therefore, we cannot live in fear of possibly being near pests.

With that said, bringing home a pest like bed bugs is a dire situation that nobody wants for the sake of their mental well-being. If you are ever in doubt when in a hotel room, follow the steps we mentioned to check the room and be sure none of these insects are present.

There is no harm in inspecting your hotel room.

Featured Image Credit: NatashaFedorova, Deposit Photos

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Mike Henderson
Mike Henderson

Mike Henderson is a pest control operator from New York with over 15 years experience dealing with a wide range of pests. He shares his knowledge on this blog and provides useful information to help you combat pests on your own.

For severe infestations and professional advice you can also request a free pest control quote here.

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