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The Souvenir You Don't Want - A Bed Bug

Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

The Souvenir You Don't Want - A Bed Bug

Paula Gaston

On our last trip my husband got bitten by some mysterious bugs. On the second day of our trip, both his arms and legs were full of red bite marks. First there was just a few of them, so we thought he might of gotten bitten my mosquitos on our hike in the forest. But the next morning there were even more. There were so many of them, that it was clear they didn't all come from mosquitos. Our little daughter and I didn't have any marks. I should probably tell you right from the beginning, that it most likely was not bed bugs. But since I did an extensive research of bugs that might of caused this, I thought everyone should know what to do when you suspect that you spend a night in a room infested by bed bugs.

For this trip it was very hard for us to find a place to stay, so we ended up in a cheap hotel. In our opinion, this place should had been called a motel, not a hotel. I don't often check the bed of our hotel room, even though I should, but this time I did. The bed looked ok and the room was clean, even though it was old and out dated. Later I realised that I probably would have not spotted the bed bugs anyway, because you really have to know how to inspect the bed and what to look for. Also, this doesn't mean that all the motel rooms would have bugs in them, or that all the nicer hotels would be clean. There have been infestations even in great hotels and known brands. This year, they even had to temporarily close two libraries in California because the books had some bed bugs. 


Bed bugs are small, only about 5 to 8 millimetres long, golden brown creatures. The smallest bed bugs, the baby ones, are called nymphs. Originally bed bugs used to be parasites which lived on bats, but they later spread and populated other living spaces for themselves. They like to live in little cracks and holes of the beds. They might make a nest in the head board, or the wall or wallpaper by the bed. Bed bugs move relatively slowly, but they are very good at hiding, so they are extremely difficult to find. They suck blood from people in order to go through their life cycle, and are most active during the night, especially around 4 or 5 am. They move towards the warmth and find a sleeping person. Some people don't get an allergic reaction from the bites of bed bugs, and therefore will never know that they got bitten. 


The first sign of bed bugs is often found between the mattresses. Sometimes even from the sheet or under the bed. Bed bug faeces is made up of the blood they eat, so sometimes you can spot dark spots on the mattress or the sheet. If you touch the spot, it spreads almost like an ink stain. After eating, the bugs shed their skin which you might also find on the bed. An adult bug will lay one to three eggs a day, so sometimes you can see some egg shells. A small infestation is very hard to find and the signs are often missed because the sheets are changed daily. For a larger infestation, these are the things to look for. 

It is actually more common to get bitten by all kinds of other little bugs than bed bugs. For example birds carry little fleas that might fall on you, or pets might bring them into the house. Even though they don't stay to live in humans, they might bite. They should not be mixed up with head lice. There are also different kinds of mites that bite people. Both bed bug and flea bites are often seen in little rows of two or three bites. That, and a biopsy by a dermatologist ruled out the scabies that we were scared of. It is very nasty and very difficult to get rid of. And it actually does spread easier than people think.

Spiders get blamed for many of the bite marks in the US. but it is actually not very common to get bitten by them. The spider bite is easy to recognise; there is always two little holes next to each other. Kind of like a snake bite but much, much smaller. 

If you suspect bed bugs, the easiest way to find them is to get up in the middle of the night and turn the lights on. There are many good videos on YouTube about how to inspect your bed; here is one you can use:


Our trip ended in our garage where our whole family marched directly from the car. Just in case, we stripped our clothes and put them straight into the washing machine. Luckily, we only had one bag with us. We left it outside and emptied everything into the washer or the freezer. I double dried everything I washed in the dryer. If you don't have a dryer, you can also use a sauna for this purpose, or over an hour in -18C winter temperatures will also do the trick if you live in a colder region. 

It is important, that you don't bring the bed bugs into your house. You will have to wash everything, and heat up or freeze everything that can not be washed. You should also vacuum your car and wash the covers of your kids' car seats. It is a lot of work, but it is a lot less than trying to get rid of the infestation in your bedroom! If you think you might have bed bugs in your home, but you are not sure, seek some professional help. At least here in California, they can bring some K9 dogs to your house to help you find the bugs. They will also help you treat the bugs. If you don't treat your apartment, the bugs are liable to move to your neighbours' as well. 

The bed bug problem is widely spread around the world. You can always read the reviews of the hotel you are going to, and see if there is any mention about infestations. There are also some websites you can check out, were people report these problems. I do however, read these with a little bit of reservation, since people tend to report every little mark on their skin as bed bugs despite the fact that they cannot actually confirm that it was bed bugs.

My intension is not to scare anyone. I have been traveling quite a lot and so far have not encountered any bed bugs (knock on wood!). But it is always good to know what to do if you think you might have been bitten by them. My husband got better within a couple of weeks, and all the painful and itchy marks were gone. He has not gotten any new ones since we got home. We think he might have gotten bit by fleas since the doctor was able to rule out many other things. Maybe they came from the forest, or from his bed since our hotel did advertise that it was pet friendly. While we were waiting for the result from the doctor, we had a massive cleaning operation at our house, and I hope I don't have to wash that much laundry in a while. 

But now; Good night, don't let the bed bugs bite.
(I assume who ever invented that saying had never gotten these painful bites).


  • Inspect your bed, headboard and the wall next to the bed when you check in to your room.
  • Keep your luggage off of the floor and closed. Many rooms have racks for luggage. 
  • Keep your clothes in your bag or on hangers. 
  • If you suspect there were bed bugs in your room, empty your luggage into a washing machine. Use heat or cold for the things that can not be washed. You can leave your luggage in a 80C degree sauna for two hours, or you can freeze it. About an hour in -18C should be enough. For smaller thing you can use the dryer. 
  • If you think you might have bed bugs in your house inspect the bed rooms. Wash the sheets, pillows and everything else at least in 60C water, or use a sauna or freezer. Vacuum the room and change the vacuum bag. Put the bag into a plastic bag and close it. 
  • Seek some professional help and let your close neighbours know (if you live in an apartment). Let your landlord know about the problem immediately.