You’ve probably heard all about bed bugs in hotel rooms, and perhaps you stumbled upon a few of the bloodthirsty critters in your own home, as well. But did you know they can be hiding inside books in the public library
, in clothing in retail stores, and along the seams of your seat in trains and planes?
Using public transportation is good for the environment, but riding on planes, subways, trains, buses, taxis, and even cruise ships may expose you to problems from bed bugs as their riders may bring them inside in luggage, clothing, and personal possessions. The risk increases
when using public transport in areas with a high incidence rate of residential bed bug infestations.
Being small and agile, bed bugs thrive in small places. Inside the house, they lodge inside cracks, crevices, and along the seams of the mattress, identifying their host by carbon dioxide, warmth, and by certain chemical substances. They prefer feeding on the exposed skin of the face, arms, and back of a sleeping person.
Since there aren’t many people sleeping on public transport, buses and trains don’t offer many opportunities for feeding. But that’s rarely a problem, since bed bugs can survive for over a year without a meal
. Public transport is, for them, a big waiting room: easily hidden in the creases of seats and seat belt fastenings on buses, trains, and planes, they patiently wait for their next blood meal to come along and hitch a ride on the victim’s clothes or belongings.
Reacting to Bed Bug Incidents in Public Transport
As owner/manager of public transportation means,
you should follow these guidelines
developed by the National Pest Management Association
- Do not ignore a bed bug complaint. Take immediate action to identify and solve a bed bug complaint.
- Identify and collect samples to present to a pest control professional for identification. In case a bed bug infestation is confirmed, the extent and distribution of the infestation should be determined.
- Remove the infested equipment from service and schedule it for inspection. Do not return the vehicle to service until you are positive the infestation has been treated successfully. Treatment may include: insecticide applications to targeted locations, steaming to remove bugs from seats, vacuuming to dislodge bugs from cracks and crevices, and heat treatment or fumigation of the entire vehicle.
- If the bed bug population has been eliminated, schedule an inspection again after 1-2 weeks to ensure that all life stages of bed bugs have been killed.
As passenger in public transportation means,
- Keep records of bed bug incidents in order to recognize patterns and identify high-risk areas.
- First of all, educate yourself. According to experts, the number one reason for the spread of bed bugs in public transport, as well as in other public places, is the lack of awareness. Begin by learning about their habits and biology to know their hiding places and feeding habits. Armed with the proper information about the tiny critters, you can easily limit your exposure by inspecting the gaps and folds in train seats and avoid sitting where they may be hiding.
- Use a taxi company you trust and avoid subways and buses with a known bed bug problem.
- If you suspect a vehicle is infested with bed bugs, consider standing instead of sitting during your daily commute. Sitting down exposes your clothing and belongings to bed bug hiding places and increases the likelihood of bugs crawling onto your things.
- Keep your belongings in your lap rather than putting it down while traveling. Once home, inspect all your things before bringing them inside the house. Be thorough about your clothes – the folds of fabric are an ideal hiding place for bed bugs. Residential infestations usually occur when bugs are brought inside the home via infested clothes and belongings - all it takes is one little critter on your briefcase and you could soon have a full-blown infestation on your hands.
In case you suspect a few bed bugs have indeed hitched a ride home with you, keep your calm and call a pest control professional
before the infestation gets out of hand.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.