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What are the dangers of bed bugs to my short term rental?
What do I do about it?

The Bed Bug Adviser
Short Term Rental Guide

Worried about bed bugs infesting your short term rental?

We’re here to help. Our guide will help you identify the annoying pests, inform your what your options are, and keep your health, sanity, and property intact.

At The Bed Bug Adviser, our independent team of experts has tested every treatment option, read all the research, and interviewed academic experts to get you the best possible advice.

Fill in your email below to see the full guide and get a helpful PDF outlining the risks bed bugs pose to Short Term Rental.

A few things you should know about bed bugs…

26 %
of people are not able to properly identify a bed bug based on samples submitted

How to identify a bed bug and signs of bed bugs

Bed Bug Short Term Rental Guide 3

The first step is to make sure they’re even bed bugs…

According to the National Pest Management Association as many as 8 out of every 10 times an exterminator is called to deal with bed bugs the person calling has incorrectly identified another bug as a bed bug. Given the danger bed bugs can pose to your Short Term Rental I’d want to make sure I’m dealing with the right thing.

You might have a guest who complains of waking up itchy, with some red spots, or maybe they spot a critter in the bed itself.

But are the bugs they saw really bed bugs?

It can be hard to tell sometimes.

Your guest may be right to be paranoid about the pests, but that doesn’t make them right

It’s easy to mistake bed bugs – or bed bug bites – for a different pest.

So you do have bed bugs. Here’s how you get rid of them?

One of the reasons we started Bed Bug Advisor: there’s more than a few treatment options for bed bugs, all of which vary quite a bit in efficacy and cost. And that’s just the professional pest control treatments; don’t get us started on the DIY ones.

Feel free to look through other resources on the site to deal with bed bugs. We’ve tested the most-often used treatment options  – and wrote up our results. Knowing what treatment works best for your particular situation is the most efficient way to ensure you win your fight against bed bugs in a cheap and timely manner

Bed bugs aren’t microscopic. You can see even the smallest ones with your naked eye, but you generally don’t, because…

Bed bugs hide from human activity. If you’re moving, they’re hiding. If you see one, there are a lot more.

So what does a bed bug look like? Bed bugs have a few defining characteristics, which you can see in this life cycle of a bed bug. You want to find the ridging along their backs, as well as their head shape and color. Bed bugs have six legs, and two relatively short antennae.

Why do so many people get this wrong? A few reasons. First is that people simply don’t see bed bugs that often yet, so they don’t know what they look like. Second is that there are quite a few bugs that share similar characteristics that can also be found in beds. Something like the carpet beetle is a very common agitator when it comes to looking for bed bugs. Termite, book lice, and roach nymphs also can look similar to nymph bed bugs.

What are the other signs of bed bugs? The most common one is fecal staining. Bed bugs have to excrete the extra blood after feeding resulting in dark ink-like stains on your mattress or box springs. You should look along the piping of your mattress, especially at the corners, as well as the underside of the mattress and box springs. If you’re unsure if what you find are actually fecal stains you can take a wet rag and try to smudge the dots. If they smudge red, then it’s blood which means it almost certainly came from a bed bug.

Another sign is that bed bugs cast their skins as the molt between different stages, much like snake. So look for their cast skins as well as the bugs themselves.

Lastly, every person responds to bed bugs differently. Some don’t even show bites for several days afterwards, if at all! So do not take bed bug bites or the lack thereof as evidence on way or another. Confirm the other signs of bed bugs first!

Know your bed bug life cycle.

Before you set out to get rid of your bed bug guests, know that just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. Bed bugs can live anywhere between 12 and 16 months without a meal – these little vampires don’t need to eat blood every day, and they’re so good at hiding it can be hard for even experts to spot them. Once you’ve seen definitive signs of bed bugs moving in, it’s time to find a treatment option.

Bed bugs also have to feed to move forward from one stage to the next of their cycle and they can’t reproduce without a blood meal. Long story short, if the bugs aren’t feeding they aren’t dying, but they aren’t growing either.

So how do you protect yourself from bed bugs?

This is a little bit of good news bad news…

The bad news is that it’s very difficult, if not outright impossible, to truly prevent bed bugs.

The good news is that there are several things you can do try and prevent them that when taken together can make your job a whole lot easier.

Traps. There are a lot of these. As a rule of thumb you should stick to traps that are about climbing, not things like glue traps since those are ineffective. Traps aren’t foolproof as there are many ways a bed bug can get to the mattress other than climbing up the legs of the bed post. However, traps are good for limiting those numbers since some can make it without climbing up the legs but not all will. The traps also have the benefit of alerting you to the presence of bed bugs if one gets caught in the trap. Studies have shown that traps slow the population growth of bed bugs but they don’t prevent infestations nor do they reduce the population size.

Bite Barriers. These are probably the best tool in the prevention fight against bed bugs. Bite barriers install over your fitted sheet and prevent bed bugs from being able to bite anyone sleeping on top of the bed. They also have a slippery skirt attached which prevents bed bugs from being able to climb on top of the mattress. And because bed bugs are prone to hiding even ones that do somehow make their way up will eventually get caught outside of the bed anyways. Most importantly though, no bites means no complaints from guests. Not only are you protecting yourself, you’re protecting your guests. And since bed bugs have to feed to reproduce you’re going to keep the problem from getting out of hand.

Encasements. If you do any cursory research on the internet you’ve almost certainly come across encasements. These are covers for your mattress and/or box springs. Unfortunately encasements are victim to a bit of “over promise and under deliver” because they take advantage of people’s lack of education. Bed bugs aren’t actually confined to your bed, so sealing off your mattress and box springs won’t actually solve your problem. Bed bugs can hide in the bedframe itself, a drawer or dresser next to the bed, or even inside the walls of the home or apartment. But encasements do make it easier to spot the signs of bed bugs. Because they seal off your mattress and box springs bed bugs have to walk on the outside of the encasement, which means their fecal stains won’t be hidden inside the confines of the box springs or hidden in hard to reach places of your mattress. Encasements also have the benefit of being water proof which can protect the investment you’ve made into your mattress.

In short traps are best for early detection, bite barriers protect your guests and your investment and encasements protect your mattress.

Let’s recap…

Don’t assume you have bed bugs. Make sure you know how to identify a bed bug – even if you don’t have bites and haven’t actually seen any bugs, you may still have them if you can spot the telltale signs.

Bed bugs are tough, resourceful parasites. They can live 12-16 months – and they’re experts at avoiding you and your attempts to eradicate them. Call a professional – but read our treatment guide which was emailed to you first.

They’re a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Bed bugs are talented hitchhikers. The more people you have come to your short term rental the more likely you are to eventually deal with bed bugs. If you’re trying to keep your short term rental full you need to know how to deal with bed bugs.

Bed bugs affect your bottom line. Not only do you have to deal with the blowback of a guest finding bed bugs, you also have to pay for remediation, shut down your STR while you’re dealing with the problem, and suffer the negative feedback from a guest. Bed bugs are better dealt with proactively

We founded the Bed Bug Adviser to give bed bug victims with the best, most up-to-date information. If there’s a question we haven’t answered in this guide, please let us know below.

Until then, we hope this helps you sleep tight tonight.

If you own and rent out an Airbnb or any vacation rental property, protecting your space is even more important. Check out our short term rental guide to protecting your investment Short Term Rental Protection Guide

Already been exposed to bed bugs?

Get free access to our Bed Bug Homeowners Guide to keep your home protected.

“It would be weird for you not to be freaked out! If you have bed bugs, and if you don’t care, that’s NOT a normal reaction. You should be worried. I would consider it a normal reaction to a stressor.”

-Stéphane Perron, University of Montreal

HomeGuard Bite Barrier

Your best first line of defense to protect your home and family from Bed Bugs.

Bed Bug Short Term Rental Guide 4

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What are our customers saying about our products?

  • I was on an Airbnb Facebook group reading over the different posts where hosts share their different problems or questions and I kept seeing the bed bug issue come up, and one person said 'I don't know what to do, this is a disaster' and nothing I was reading in the comments was satisfying. It was pretty jarring and I thought as we're scaling this up I really need to do something preventative there and I just didn't know what to do. But then I met Brian the Bed Bug Adviser and learned a lot about how to deal with them and protect myself.

    Caroline Y.
    Caroline Y. Airbnb Property Manager and Traveler
  • What I like about the TravelGuard is that it's literally just a sheet, it's not bulky or anything like that, it's as easy to pack as a sheet, you can roll it, you can fold it down. There are more times than you think that you end up needing something like the TravelGuard.

    Caroline Y.
    Caroline Y. Airbnb Manager and Traveler

Questions about fighting bed bugs?

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