BEDBUGS! How To Avoid an Infestation

Long story short: I checked into a reasonably nice hotel around noon yesterday. At 8 pm, I found a live bedbug walking across my bed while I was lying on it. I switched hotels immediately, but I want to avoid bringing them home! What reasonable steps should I take here?

My suitcase was sitting on the floor, zipped the whole time. I did have some shirts hanging up and a coat draped over the chair.

Obviously I’m going to keep my suitcase on my apartment’s balcony but what next? I can have my dressier clothes dry cleaned, toss my socks/underwear, and wash the remaining clothes on super hot water. Will that be enough?

My options on the suitcase itself appear to be “Do nothing” “Wash as best possible” and “Set on fire, flee on foot”. I’d rather not get rid of it entirely, but a new suitcase is cheaper than a professional exterminator.

Mod, feel free to move this to IMHO if this isn’t “factual” enough

Freezing is supposed to kill them.

OK, the bad news.

The fact that your suitcase was zipped won’t help at all, in fat it probably made it worse. Bedbugs like to hide where they can be wedged between two solid surfaces, and they are thin. So anywhere that you can shove a sheet of paper is ideal, including the joins of your zipper.

Leaving the suitcase on the balcony won’t help unless your balcony is at sub-zero temperatures. Bedbugs move towards heat and CO2, and they travel around 5 metres a night. So they will already have moved into your apartment assuming that you brought any with you.

At this stage it’s really too late to worry about doing anything. If you’re gonna get infested then it’s almost certainly already happened.

If you still want to try a remedy, then you place all your gear, including the shoes you were wearing, inside a plastic bag, then buy some Dichlorvos strips (Vapona is the most common brand) and place them inside the bag. Leave the bag in a warm spot for a couple of weeks.

The supplementary question is how you managed to see a bedbug. An unfed bedbug is almost invisible, and assuming your room had been vacant for an hour before you moved in it’s highly unlikely that a fed bug would still be moving around. So can I ask what makes you think you saw a bed bug?

One approach (I’m assuming you’re still out of town) is to have someone bring you a change of clothes to some place public. Change into those clothes, and put all of your other clothes into a large plastic bag (which the someone has also brought to you). Drop the clothes-filled bag at the nearest dry cleaners. Throw away the suitcase (or at least, bag it up and store it someone place for many months - do not bring it into the house).

Similar treatment for the laptop computer (do bedbugs like electronics?).

OK, this is all from anecdotal suggestions - I remember hearing people say they’d found bedbugs in hotels and been advised to just throw out their luggage - but it would seem to be a way of ensuring the damn things do NOT come into your apartment.

They will hide anywhere that they can. A laptop has plenty of ideal hiding places.

I have heard that bagging the suitcase and leaving it in a car on a hot sunny day will get them. If you live in AZ, anyway. Any information on that?

Blake, I get the impression that the OP is not home yet, but in a different hotel.

You don’t need the vehicle, a large black plastic garbage bag works just as well, probably better. However probably not at this time of year in the US. It’s very temperature and time dependent. As little as two hours at 75oC will work fine, but you need to get the item to 55oC for something like 8 hours to be certain of a kill. I don’t think you’re going to manage the time or the temperature at the moment, even in Arizona.

Ahh, that’s different. In that case, don’t take the stuff home until it’s treated. Those little buggers can travel.

Yes, this is correct. I am in a different hotel. The sum total of time in the first hotel was 9 hours during the day.

Also, I think you are incorrect about unfed bedbugs being nearly invisible. It was reddish-brown, ovalish/flat, and slow moving. I trapped it under a glass and showed it to the hotel management who put up no fight and let me check out right away.

So it seems like throwing away my luggage, some clothes, etc might be the only solution. I certainly have a laptop as well as other electronics. I’d prefer not throw that one away…

If you can throw away all your clothes and suitcase without too much worry, then do it. Do exactly what Mamma Zappa said, except I would add that you should take a shower in between the infested clothes and the clean clothes, just to make sure.
Search SDMB for my username + bedbugs, and you’ll find our bedbug story somewhere, I’m sure.
They are virtually impossible to get rid of. The only sure ways I trust to kill them:

  • 1 hour on high heat in an industrial dryer
  • Poisons that you can’t get over the counter. (You must get them from an exterminator who specializes in bedbugs)
  • (Food-Grade) Diomataceous Earth

FREEZING DOES NOT RELIABLY KILL BEDBUGS! We had some stuff in the freezer for 2 months, and the bugs survived.

If you saw one, it probably wasn’t unfed. They feed on human blood, and it’s a hotel. I bet the one you saw eats like a king.

I am also a little curious about Blake’s characterization of bedbugs as “almost invisible.” Here are some photos of bedbugs. Note that the unfed one (at about 1 o’clock) does not appear that much smaller than the fed one (at 12 o’clock). Perhaps Blake is remembering that bedbug eggs (at about 10 o’clock) are nearly invisible.