By Cindy Mannes
From the August 2020 Issue
Lodging facilities of all sizes rely heavily on customer reviews to help build and maintain their reputation. Whether planning a business trip or vacation, review sites are often the first stop on a potential guest’s journey, and the comments within will make or break their decision on whether or not to stay at a facility. One of the biggest detriments to the reputation of a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast is a pest problem. All it takes is one comment detailing an encounter with bed bugs or spotting a cockroach in the bathroom for word to spread and bookings to tank. From bad press and decreased occupancy, to potential lawsuits and closures, facility management must educate themselves on the pests their sites are most susceptible to and then take proactive measures to prevent infestations before these have a chance to materialize.
With a steady stream of guests, lodging facilities are especially vulnerable to bed bug infestations. With their expert hitchhiking abilities, bed bugs can be introduced via luggage, clothing, handbags, and other seemingly innocuous items. Once introduced, bed bugs can spread rapidly from room to room through wall voids, in vacuum cleaners, or on clothing and luggage. According to research conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), hotels are among the top three places pest professionals report treating bed bugs. While these pests are an unpleasant discovery, they are not an indicator of cleanliness and can occur at even the best establishments. This makes it imperative that lodging facility managers be prepared and proactive should an issue arise.
Bed bugs primarily feed on humans while they are asleep, and although they do not transmit any diseases, their bites can cause red, itchy welts. Despite their name, bed bugs can also be found in a multitude of places, including chair cushions, sofas, behind electrical outlets, cracks and crevices around baseboards, or even behind picture frames. Once a consistent food source is identified, bed bugs can breed rapidly with females laying anywhere from one to five eggs per day—that’s over 540 eggs during the course of their lifetime. And because it only takes roughly 21 days for nymphs to grow into adult bed bugs, these pests can quickly infest an entire building if not dealt with properly.
Signs of a bed bug infestation: Bed bugs are most easily identified by small reddish-brown fecal spots on mattresses, upholstery, or walls. Bites on the arms and legs are another tell-tale sign of this pest. Infestations can also be identified by sightings of bed bug molt skins, their eggs, empty eggshells, or the bugs themselves.
Scheduling regular bed bug inspections and training employees on the signs of an infestation can help managers identify and address an issue quickly and discreetly. Facility managers can also consider redesigning guest rooms to make it easier to detect bed bugs like using less fabric, using white bedding and avoiding clutter.
Cockroaches are one of the filthiest insects to invade properties, and infestations can have serious health consequences. These pests are known to spread 33 different kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella; six types of parasitic worms; seven kinds of human pathogens; and can even trigger asthma and allergy symptoms, especially in children. Cockroaches are attracted to areas with excess moisture, picking up germs on the spines of their legs and body as they crawl through decaying matter or sewage and then transferring the germs onto food or cooking surfaces, spreading dangerous diseases to humans.
Cockroaches are also one of the most resilient pests in the world, with the ability to live for a week without their heads. In addition to this amazing feat, cockroaches are also experts at hiding and reproduce at extremely high rates, allowing infestations to quickly replicate if the problem is not addressed immediately.
Signs of a cockroach infestation: The number one sign of a cockroach infestation is seeing the fast-moving insects themselves, usually fleeing to moist, dark areas when disturbed. They also leave behind droppings in the dim areas in which they hide. Another sign of a cockroach infestation is the presence of eggs which can be found glued to a surface near food sources, in basements, laundry rooms, and kitchens, as well as behind appliances or underneath cabinets.
There are more than 20 different species of ants known to invade structures and more than 700 different species of ants throughout the United States as a whole. These social insects are members of extremely large colonies, making them both a nuisance and difficult to eradicate.
Although most ants do not pose a health threat to humans, carpenter ants for example can cause damage to structures and red imported fire ants—predominant in the Southern U.S.—can inflict painful stings that can send people to the hospital. Ants can invade lodging facilities through the tiniest of holes or cracks in walls, as well as gaps in the structures’ foundation. With the ability to gain access to a facility every which way possible, these pests must be addressed immediately to prevent an infestation from taking hold.
Signs of an ant infestation: The most common sign of an ant infestation is witnessing the trails of ants, often traveling into the building or up trees or vegetation along the outside of the facility. Additionally, distinct mounds comprised of grass or other plant materials will signal the presence of an ant nest. Wood shavings or sawdust in the building or near outdoor furniture may also be the sign of a carpenter ant infestation.
Rodents often infest facilities in search of food and shelter, making lodging facilities the perfect oasis for these pests. Contaminating and consuming about 20% of the world’s food supply, rodents such as rats and mice are able to spread more than 35 diseases, such as hantavirus and Salmonella to humans, and proteins in their urine can also cause flare-ups of asthma and allergy symptoms.
Rodents can also cause significant property damage. Rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter, and mice can fit through holes the size of a dime. Once they gain entry to a facility they can gnaw through cardboard, drywall, and even pipes in search of water and food. They have also been known to spark electrical fires by chewing through wiring.
Signs of a rodent infestation: Some of the telltale signs of a rodent infestation include finding droppings, gnaw marks, nests, tracks or rub marks along walls or floorboards, hearing strange noises, and seeing an actual rodent in the facility.
10 Pest Prevention Tips
An encounter with any one of these pests can quickly send guests packing and onto their favorite review site to vent about their experience. Fortunately, there are steps lodging facility managers can take to reduce pest activity and ensure a better stay for their guests.
- Conduct routine inspections of the building to monitor for signs of various pest activity, paying close attention to any dark or damp areas as these are particularly attractive to many pests.
- Inspect all areas for signs of bed bug infestations, paying close attention to the seams of furniture and upholstery. Housekeeping staff should also inspect for evidence of bed bugs during every room visit, and maintenance staff should remove and check behind headboards and under box springs periodically as well.
- Inspect deliveries and be on the lookout for any signs of damage to boxes and bags in storage areas, as pests may have gained entry. Ensure empty containers are properly stored and disposed of, as these serve as ideal harborage sites for pests.
- Ensure there is no condensation buildup in any rooms that could accumulate moisture, and inspect under sinks and repair any leaky pipes or faucets immediately.
- Ensure the grounds surrounding the facility are properly maintained, as overgrown vegetation can attract pests to the property.
- Install a gravel perimeter around the building to help discourage vegetation growth that could harbor pests.
- Ensure any dumpsters on-site have a closeable lid and are located as far away from the building as possible.
- Seal any cracks or gaps on the exterior of the building, paying close attention to areas where pipes and utilities enter.
- Ensure gutters are free of debris and be sure to direct water away from the building through properly functioning downspouts to prevent water collection.
- Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair any screens to prevent pests from easily gaining entry. Keep loading docks and all exterior doors closed.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
In addition to the above tips, the most important thing lodging facility managers can do is partner with a licensed pest control company to help implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program—a holistic approach to pest control tailored to the individual facility. In addition to evaluating the property and addressing any existing pest problems, the technician will also develop an employee education program, outlining the important role they play in pest prevention and detection within the lodging facility. This will help managers rest assured that any pest problems that may arise will be handled discreetly and efficiently to minimize the effect on the safety and health of guests and staff.
Lodging facilities are complex structures with a revolving door of patrons, making adequate pest control paramount to success. By getting familiar with the pests that often plague lodging facilities and partnering with a pest control company that can tailor a solution to the building, facility management can ensure their guests experience a safe and relaxing stay, helping to maintain the reputation of their establishment for years to come.
Mannes is senior vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a non-profit organization with nearly 5,000 members from around the world. NPMA was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food, and property.
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