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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Beware of bed bugs during summer travels

STILLWATER, Okla. – With the end of summer in sight, plenty of families will be trying to squeeze in a vacation before a new school year begins. Wherever their travels take them, Oklahomans should be on the outlook for any uninvited guests in the form of bed bugs trying to tag along for the fun.

“Bed bugs are fantastic hitchhikers. They can hitch a ride a lot of different ways such as on clothing, luggage and even commercial airliners. It’s a good idea to take a few simple precautions when you’re traveling to reduce your chances of being exposed to this annoying pest,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

One way to cut your exposure to bed bugs while traveling is to check your motel or hotel room for signs of the pests before settling in.

“Leave your luggage on a hard surface, such as in the bathtub or on the counter while conducting a thorough inspection of your room,” Peek said.

Begin by carefully pulling back all the linens at the top of the bed to search for eggs, bugs, blood and black fecal spots, which are signs of a bed bug infestation.

Pay close attention to the box springs and headboards, as well as check the seams, tufts and crevices of mattresses.

“Be aware bed bugs can make themselves at home in upholstered chairs and sofas, especially if the furniture is used for sleeping, as well as in the cracks, crevices and recesses of nightstands and dressers,” Peek said. “Don’t forget to check the luggage rack, too, for signs of the pests by looking on and under the straps.”

Only move the luggage into the room when you are confident there are no bed bugs present. If you see signs of bed bugs in the room, immediately report it to hotel staff.

“Never set your suitcase on the bed or other cloth-covered furniture,” Peek said. “Use the luggage rack or a hard surface such as a desk or dresser.”

After returning home, unpack luggage immediately in a location other than your bedroom, such as the bathroom or garage, and wash and dry all your clothing.

“Since heat effectively kills bed bugs, put items that can be laundered into the dryer on medium to high heat for at least 20 minutes. Then wash and dry clothing again to ensure any pests were eliminated,” Peek said. “As an added layer of precaution, take your luggage outside and clean the interior and pockets to be sure there are no signs of bed bugs.”

Adult bed bugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed. Mainly active at night, they need a blood meal to survive and feed almost exclusively on humans.

Reactions to being bitten vary from person to person. Some people have no reaction, while others may experience itchy, red welts or localized swelling within a day or two.

For more information about bed bugs, contact your local county Extension office.


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078