With so many guests coming through the doors, every hostel is at risk of having an outbreak of bed bugs. It’s every hostel owner’s worst nightmare, and the internet is full of conflicting and often useless information on how to deal with this problem. We’ve put together a guide from hostel owners who have been through the worst and found solutions to bring them out the other side.
When someone shows you bites
Just because someone has itchy red spots doesn’t mean your hostel has bed bugs. Bites can take up to 4 days to show on the skin. The bites can also have many different shapes and sizes so there is no way to know if someone’s bites are actually from bed bugs or not. A common trait to look for, however, is a line of bites.
Another thing that makes the bites misleading is that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites. This means that multiple people can sleep in an infected bed but and all will be bitten but only some will show signs. As it’s impossible to know if you have bed bugs just from looking at someone’s bites, it’s always important to investigate further just in case.
Step 1: Deal with guest’s belongings
Put all guest belongings into a sealed plastic bag to move them to the laundry. Simply washing the guest’s clothing and backpack will not help. To kill the bed bugs, put the belongings into a dryer and raise the temperature to above 45 degrees celsius. This will kill both the insects and the larvae. The larvae are otherwise very hard to kill, not even insecticide will kill them.
Step 2: Inspect the area
Inspect the area where the guest was sleeping very carefully. Look for small black spots. They can be in curtains, in the cracks of the mattress, in the paint on the wall, in the paint on the bed, etc. Wooden beds are particularly easy for bed bugs to live in because of the tiny cracks. Bed bugs can fit into the smallest cracks that you would not imagine they can fit into.
If there are any small black spots anywhere in the area it is likely bed bug droppings. This means the whole room must be closed down as they can easily move between beds. At this point it’s a good idea to inspect the other rooms as well.
Step 3: Remove the bed bugs
In order to kill bed bugs you will need to both spray and bomb the room on two separate occasions. They are very resilient and can be sprayed and still walk away unharmed. Likewise, while a bomb will kill them in the open, it will not reach into the tiny cracks that they live in. The spray will bring the bugs out of the cracks to look for refuge and then the bomb will kill them while they try to find safety.
The first spray and bomb will kill the adults so no more larvae can be laid, but it will do nothing to the existing larvae. The take about two weeks to hatch, and then one month to become adults. You need to bomb and spray a second time after they hatch and before they reach adulthood. To be on the safe side, this means that your room will be out of commission for about three weeks. If you do the second spray and bomb sooner than three weeks you risk not catching all of them.
- Have the smallest number of cracks in the room. Bed bugs will live on mattresses but only if they have to. They love the cracks in wooden bed frames so if possible choose metal frames.
- Guests bringing camping equipment into the hostel is often the cause of bed bugs. It’s best to put camping equipment into sealed plastic bags in a storage area during the guest’s stay.
Other things to consider
- Bed bugs can live up to a year without food, so simply closing a room during the off-season is not going to remove them.
- Some people swear by heat treatments to remove bed bugs. They can work, but they are expensive. Also, if your bed bugs are living in deep cracks the amount of heat required to reach and kill them could destroy your furniture and wall paint.
- The longer the bugs are left untreated, the more they will breed and spread, making it harder to remove them. If there are enough bugs it’s possible for someone to go into anaphylactic shock from too many bites. This requires immediate hospitalization for your guest, something to consider if you get bed bugs during your peak season and don’t want to lose money from a closed room.
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