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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Beware of bed bugs during summer travels

STILLWATER, Okla. – With summer’s arrival, family vacation season is now in full swing. It is a good guess, though, that bed bugs are probably the last things on the minds of would be travelers.

Turns out, they can bed bugs are great hitchhikers and they are not shy about catching a ride. For instance, tag along on clothing, luggage and even commercial airliners.

Traveling Oklahomans can take a few simple precautions to reduce their chances of being exposed to such an annoying pest.

One way for families to cut their potential for exposure to bed bugs while traveling is to check the motel or hotel room for signs of the pests before settling in, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“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. “Then pull 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. Check the box springs and headboards, as well as the seams, tufts and crevices of mattresses.”

Bed bugs also can make themselves at home in upholstered chairs and sofas, particularly if the furniture is used for sleeping, as well as in the cracks, crevices and recesses of nightstands and dressers.

To be completely thorough, check the luggage rack, too, for signs of the pests by looking on and under the straps.

Luggage should only be moved into the room when it is certain there are no bed bugs present. Immediately report any signs of bed bugs to hotel staff.

During the stay, avoid placing luggage on the bed or other cloth-covered furniture. Instead, use the luggage rack or a hard surface such as a desk or dresser.

After returning home, luggage should be unpacked immediately in a location other than the bedroom, such as the bathroom or garage, then all clothing should be washed and dried.

Heat effectively kills bed bugs. Items that can be laundered should be dried on medium to high heat for at least 20 minutes, then washed and dried again to make sure all pests are eliminated.

“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,” Peek said.

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 nearest 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