As I was scouring the world of pest news for this post, it became quite obvious that the “new” news is pretty much the “old” news: bed bugs dominating the headlines when travel and holidays intersect. Seems fitting that holiday travel tips found on many online resources are also dispensing advice about bed bugs. While a bed bug post is nothing out of the ordinary for most any time of year, I would be remiss if I failed to note that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most traveled days of the year. And nothing goes with travel, hotels and the news like bed bugs do lately. Therein lies a part of the problem. Lack of awareness. The “it will never happen to me” attitude has elevated bed bugs to an all too common news story and entrenched them in our lives. We have a say in all of this though.
Tips like placing your luggage in the bathtub and then inspecting the sheets, mattress, box spring and furniture in your room prior to committing your personal items to their designated storage areas, while seemingly an exercise in futility, might be the difference between going home with just your personal items and going home with bed bugs. Warning signs of bed bugs like cast skins, fecal blood stains and live bed bugs are a strong indication you need to pick up and look elsewhere for lodging! After all, in order to know what to look out for, you first have to start looking…closely. Roughly the size of an apple seed, dark brown to reddish in color (when engorged with blood after feeding) bed bugs are visible to the naked eye.
So where’s the veritable bed bug twist in this story? Wait for it… Bed bugs don’t bite hairy people. Seems the little bloodsuckers are deterred by body hair. Great news for people who have lots of it, bad news for people like me and my fellow hairless fair-weather friends. Looks like I will be performing more than a cursory inspection of any hotel I visit! Studies performed at Sheffield University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences studied 29 people who volunteered to be bitten; all in the name of science. The findings revealed that the more layers of both longer layers of hair and the diminutive “vellus” or fine hairs, act as an early detection warning for us and a deterrent for bed bugs. In other words, our hairs both warn and protect us. More hairs means more protection. Less hair, well, you get the picture. Being at the top of the food chain and being the most highly evolved creatures on earth does come with it’s advantages!
A 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) revealed 80 percent of member respondents indicated that bed bug infestations have increased across the country, with nearly all pest control companies fielding bed bug calls in the past year. So the moral of the story is clear. Check your bedding, your furniture and the mattress before unpacking and settling into your hotel room, and if you have body hair and you’re traveling, while bed bugs may not bite you, they can still hitch a ride home with you (bed bugs are expert hitchhikers) and bite someone less genetically gifted.
So this holiday season, don’t buy your hairy brother-in-law that spa package to get his back waxed. Don’t worry about shaving your legs or arms to meet some ideology based in aesthetics and vanity rather than one based in fundamental, evolutionary common sense. Keep your hair and keep bed bugs away. But please, please, please, do check your room, your furniture and your personal items when arriving and your personal items again before departing. Your body hair, if you’ve got it, will do it’s job and your vigilance will contribute to the greater good. If you find bed bugs and need tips or advice on how to get rid of bed bugs, contact a professional like Rentokil to eliminate the problem for you.