One thing you don’t want to bring back from vacation

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Bed bugs have been found in schools, homes, college dormitories and even the finest hotels. Protect yourself and your belongings when you’re traveling by learning to identify these globetrotting pests.

Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown with small, flat, oval and wingless bodies about the size of an apple seed. They crawl at a steady rate and can be seen with the naked eye. Bed bug nymphs look much the same but are smaller and lighter in color than adults. Both nymphs and adults feed on blood. Nymphs need blood to molt, and adults need blood to mate and lay eggs.

Upon arriving in a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast, carefully inspect the bed linens and headboard, and pull the sheets back to check the mattress for bed bugs. Examine upholstered furniture and draperies as well. If a room is infested with bed bugs, you’re also likely to find fecal staining, which is light brown to black and looks like tiny drops of dried blood. If you find any evidence of bed bugs, report it to management immediately.

Additional precautions can be taken to reduce the likelihood of bringing the pests home with you. Use hotel room luggage racks to hold luggage when packing or unpacking rather than placing it on the bed or floor. Upon returning home, thoroughly inspect all bedding, suitcases, backpacks, boxes or other items that traveled with you. Clothing and bedding should be laundered and run through a high-heat dryer cycle.

If a few hitchhikers manage to make it back with you, several treatment options are available for bed bug infestations. Pest management professionals are trained to choose and safely apply effective products for infestations, and there also are products available for consumers seeking an effective do-it-yourself solution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a Bed Bug Product Search Tool that can be used to find an effective pesticide product for the situation.

“There are more than 300 products registered by the EPA to control bed bugs, and many can be used by consumers,” says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) – a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide products. “These products are rigorously tested to ensure they are effective. Just remember to always read and follow all label directions.”

Don’t let bed bugs hinder your travel plans. Know what to look for, inspect your room upon arrival, examine luggage and contents when you return and rest assured that there are treatment options should bed bugs hitch a ride home with you. For more information, visit

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