Bed bugs can become accomplished hitchhikers

Staff Reports • Updated May 2, 2018 at 9:00 PM

KNOXVILLE – Spring and summer months bring all sorts of favorite activities, like traveling and shopping for deals at yard sales. 

But University of Tennessee Extension entomologist Karen Vail said the activities could leave people at a greater risk for a bed bug infestation.

“Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers,” Vail said. “They can enter homes via infested luggage, backpacks, purses, clothing and furniture. Depending on their stage of life, bed bugs can be 1/25th to 1/3 of an inch in size, which makes them extremely difficult to spot.”

While traveling, Vail advised luggage and suitcases should be kept away from the bed. Consider storing suitcases in the bathroom or place them in a sealable plastic bag. If staying in a hotel, always inspect the room before unpacking, checking for bed bugs behind the headboard, along the mattress seam and any other cracks and crevices. If bed bugs are found, ask for a different room immediately. Before leaving the hotel, check luggage and then wash and dry clothes as soon as returning. If in a hurry, leave the suitcase in a sealed bag until there’s time to inspect and clean it.

For those who enjoy shopping at yard or garage sales, Vail suggested closely inspecting any item before bringing it into the home. This goes for used beds, bedding, furniture, appliances, clothing, purses, backpacks and briefcases. Vail said consider placing purchased items into a small heat chamber designed to kill bed bugs or using a steamer on them before bringing them into the home. Be sure to read equipment directions to avoid damaging items. 

“A garage sale bargain can quickly become expensive if it brings bed bugs into your home,” she said.

Vail said she carries a lint roller made to remove pet hair when she travels. The sticky sheets easily catch bed bugs when rolled over them. While this quick check can be reassuring, she recommended running clothing through the dryer after returning home.

For industry professionals, like housing managers, pest control professionals, health department representatives and others, UT Extension scheduled the fourth-annual Tennessee Bed Bug and Cockroach Management Meeting for Aug. 1 at 7:30 a.m. in Knoxville at the UT Conference Center. The meeting will feature national experts, topics like community-wide bed bug management success, the future of bed bug detection and a question and answer panel with all speakers to conclude the day.

To register and for more information, visit tiny.utk.edu/bedbugs. The registration deadline for the one-day meeting is July 24. The cost is $100 for pest management professionals, while all others may register at a discounted cost of $50 per person. Registration fee includes lunch, parking in the Locust Street garage, meeting materials and six recertification points for pesticide certification card holders in categories 7, 8, 10 and 12.

For additional help and resources, visit ag.tennessee.edu/bedbugs or contact the Wilson County Extension office.


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