The pandemic is over, well perhaps not quite. Nonetheless, things are beginning to return to normality, and people are looking to travel once more.
This is fantastic news for several industries that have been devastated by Covid. According to Statista, 62 million jobs linked to tourism were lost due to the pandemic.
The aviation industry, hospitality, and the restaurant trade have all been hit hard too. Yet, there may be one small blessing to have arisen due to the last couple of years.
In many regions around the world, there is one problem that can plague guesthouses and holiday rentals; bed bugs.
With rooms being left empty for so long, does this mean that travelers never have to feel concerned about these night-time visitors again?
What exactly are bed bugs?
You’ve probably heard the phrase; don't let the bed bugs bite before. And it sounds quite cute, but bed bugs are anything but.
These tiny insects can breed extremely quickly, infest an entire apartment block by spreading, and they feed on human blood.
Even though they are dubbed bed bugs, they are not restricted to that one area of the home. They can live in all manner of furnishings, and they will enter cracks in walls and ceilings and travel between rooms.
This is one reason that they are such a problem for some guesthouses and hotels.
Why would the pandemic wipe out bed bugs?
If you have an infestation then normally you would call a bed bug exterminator to wipe them out. However, the pandemic may have done the job for a lot of hotel owners.
Bed bugs need blood to survive. Depending on their development and their hunger, they may feed for a few minutes at a time on a host. Without blood though they will die.
Sounds easy to get rid of them right? Unfortunately, they can survive a long time without a blood meal. Depending on how old they are, and the climate they live in, they could survive months without feeding.
Some pest control experts routinely put the bed bug survival period at around 5 months without feeding. Yet, one laboratory experiment showed adults kept at a low temperature could survive up to 400 days without a blood meal.
So, empty holiday accommodation is now safe then?
In theory, a guesthouse that had an issue with bed bugs before could now be pest-free. If that guesthouse had no guests during the pandemic.
While the pandemic has been a financial disaster for many, it may have also cleaned up one unpleasant aspect of hotels in some regions. Tourists ready for a holiday after Covid will certainly be pleased to find clean, pest-free accommodation.
There are plenty of untruths surrounding bed bugs, and one is that they only like dirty cluttered accommodation. They are routinely associated with cheap guesthouses used by backpackers. However, the truth is they are happy to live anywhere where people are sleeping.
How can you know if you have bed bugs?
Another myth surrounding bed bugs is that they always leave itchy bite marks. While this is certainly true for the majority, not everyone gets affected.
This means that you could easily have bed bugs in your home for some time without even realising it. Many people won’t know they have them until they actually spot on, or see some of the other signs.
Ways to tell that you have bed bugs
If you have white or pale sheets then you may see the signs of bed bugs quickly. They leave rusty-coloured stains on sheets and pillowcases. They also leave eggs, eggshells, and skin behind that they shed.
Lifting up a mattress can often reveal evidence of bed bugs below. Some people will also notice an unpleasant odor with a high concentration of bed bugs.
While some people don’t react to bed bug bites, many others will. In bad cases, it isn’t uncommon for an individual to be covered in welts after a particularly frenetic feeding time. When you consider that one female can produce 500 eggs, this isn’t that unusual.
How can you get rid of bed bugs?
There are plenty of products on the market that promise to eradicate bed bugs. Nevertheless, not all of them work. Even products marked by the EPA don’t necessarily have to have any proof of their ability to kill bed bugs.
If you are fortunate enough to have kept guests over the last two years, then good for you. If this also means that you have unfortunately gained bed bugs, then you will need an exterminator.
Ideally, pest control experts should be used to eradicate bed bugs. This is because they are particularly tenacious and difficult to remove.
Another way to kill bed bugs is to use diatomaceous earth. This sand-like substance is completely safe for adults and can be liberally spread around a room to help kill bed bugs.
It is abrasive and works by removing the protective coating that surrounds bed bugs leaving them to dehydrate and die. Diatomaceous earth is said to be safe to be used around children and pets, although some may suffer reactions. So, caution is to be advised.
Using pest control experts means that environmentally friendly products will be used, in a safe and controlled manner.
Can tourists forget about this worrying aspect of holiday accommodation now?
Well, only time will tell. Bed bugs are adept at hitching rides in clothing and baggage. Therefore, it may be that tourists will spread them from their own homes and into hotels and guesthouses again.
August is the most popular month for looking for holiday homes, and it is also one of the hottest in many countries. This increases the breeding frequency of bed bugs. It can only be hoped that holiday accommodation remains pest free, and any new problems are treated swiftly.
What are the health issues surrounding bed bugs?
The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that bed bugs can cause secondary infections such as impetigo. Generally, though, bed bugs don’t cause serious health conditions as such.
What largely happens is that people will suffer from raised, red, itchy bites. Allergic reactions can also happen, and in extreme cases, anaphylaxis.
Another common myth is that bed bugs spread disease, but fortunately, this isn’t true. They are just very unpleasant visitors for any guests simply trying to enjoy their holiday.
There have been some cases though, where individuals have had to seek hospital treatment after a particularly nasty reaction to bed bugs. Some individuals do not react to bites for a day or more afterward too.
This means it can be difficult to decide where the problem occurred, especially with backpackers moving around frequently.
It is to be hoped that tourism is about to start flourishing again. Certainly, there are millions of people just waiting to get on to flights and jet off to sunnier climes. No doubt the Algarve will be seeing a welcome boost to tourism this year.
If you have a holiday rental or own a guesthouse, then it is always worth checking for these critters. They can be transported from one hotel to another easily in people’s luggage and clothing.
Catching them quickly and using a pest controller is an efficient way to remove them, but hopefully, the pandemic did the job already.