The Threats of Pest Sightings

    By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

    Warmer temperatures and increased travelers bring more than just revenue—they can also bring increased pest activity. With guests flocking to social media and online review sites to leave their feedback, it can only take one negative review to destroy your hotel’s reputation and damage your bottom line.

    Bed bugs, flies, cockroaches, and rodents are known to plague hotels more than any other pests. So how do you combat them? Here are the best tips to safeguard your reputation and keep pests away.

    Bed Bugs

    Often the first pest a guest thinks about when choosing a hotel are bed bugs. The hospitality industry is all about people coming and going, so it is no surprise that bed bugs occur frequently. They are incredible hitchhikers, capable of attaching themselves to luggage, clothing, and other personal belongings, which means they can be brought into your hotel at any time inadvertently by a guest or employee. Because preventing bed bugs completely is not possible, it’s critical to identify bed bugs early and control them before they spread into a full-blown infestation.

    Bed bugs are difficult to spot because they hide in cracks and crevices during the day and typically only come out at night to feed on humans when they’re asleep and because they are small in stature—adult bed bugs are the size of an apple seed and are typically reddish-brown in color.

    Don’t let bed bugs take your travelers and reputation with them. Train your staff how to identify bed bugs and call a pest management professional (PMP) the minute activity is suspected. Look for these tell-tale bed bug signs:

    • Visual observations of bed bugs in the seams, behind or under the manufacturer’s mattress tag, and inside or around any rips or tears in the mattress.
    • Blood smears resulting from bed bugs that were crushed on the mattress, sheets and/or mattress covers.
    • Bed bugs often leave blood spots on sheets, mattress pads, or blankets that cover the mattress, so be sure to check these areas.
    • Look for the presence of bed bug cast skins. As bed bugs molt, they shed their skin and leave many shed skins in their harborage sites. Not only is the appearance of these cast skins an obvious sign of bed bugs, the discarded skins are important since attractant pheromones, chemicals that draw other bed bugs, are found in bed bug cast skins.
    • Look for black, ink-like stains their fecal matter leaves behind on bed frames, head boards, mattresses, mattress pads, or nearby upholstered furniture.


    Cockroaches love warm, damp environments with ample food and water, making spring and summer the perfect time to make an unwanted appearance. They are incredibly resilient creatures and once they’ve found a safe harborage in your hotel, a cockroach problem can quickly worsen. They can be found in dirty places like kitchens and bathrooms, where particles that may be contaminated with bacteria or viruses can be picked up and transferred. If a large population of cockroaches exists, it can often aggravate someone with sensitive allergies, so dealing with them immediately is key.

    To help prevent cockroaches, implement the following tips:

    • Keep as much food as possible under refrigeration.
    • Repair leaking pipes or plumbing problems as soon as they are identified.
    • Dispose of trash inside and outside in appropriate waste receptacles and cover with tight-fitting lids.
    • In foodservice areas, clean spills, crumbs, and other potential food sources immediately.
    • Seal holes and gaps in walls, around floor-wall junctions, and around pipes. Cockroaches can squeeze through cracks as thin as a dime.
    • Cockroaches seek out dark, covered harborage areas, so avoid accumulating clutter in offices, kitchens, or behind the front desk.


    Flies are more than an annoying pest. Considered one of the dirtiest pests, they can carry twice as many pathogens as cockroaches and transmit sicknesses like salmonella, E. Coli, staphylococcus, and shigella. They often are a sign of a larger sanitation issue.

    To ensure flies don’t spoil your reputation, take the following steps:

    • Rotting garbage is feast for flies. Remove trash daily and ensure indoor and outdoor trashcans have a plastic liner and tight lid. Also, be sure to wash out trashcans on a regular basis to remove buildup.
    • Install air curtains at entrances to keep flies from sneaking in before doors shut. Air curtains are fans that create a “wall” of air that insects have trouble flying through.
    • Check that window screens are secure and free of tears or holes.
    • Avoid letting grass clippings or other decaying material accumulate on the surrounding property.
    • Warm weather quickly accelerates decomposition, so clean up spills, litter, and food as soon as it happens.


    Hotels are cozy and comfortable—from delicious food to warm shelter—making them a prime location for unwanted guests like rodents. In addition to alarming customers and tarnishing your reputation, they present major health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rodents are known to spread more than 35 diseases worldwide, which can be passed on to humans directly through contact with feces, urine, or saliva, or indirectly by the ticks, mites, and fleas that feed on rodents. A contaminated food product could spread such diseases as salmonella, tape worms, jaundice, and hantavirus.

    Rodents can also damage property. These critters love to gnaw and will chew on just about anything they can sink their teeth into, including wood, paper, and dry wall. Their poor eye sight can also lead them to chew on electrical wires, which they mistake for plant roots. This can be a major fire hazard.

    While rodents can be quite stealth, they do leave clues that can alert staff and guests to their presence.

    • Look for gnaw marks on electrical wires, wooden structures, cardboard, and plastic. They also produce as many as 50 pellet droppings a day. If you see large quantities, this may indicate where populations are high.
    • Rodents can leave greasy stains along walls, floorboards, and objects as they scurry. They are habitual creatures, so they often repeatedly use the same paths. This repetitive rubbing can alert your staff that the area is a rodent highway.
    • Check along walls, foundations, and beneath slabs and shrubbery for rat burrows. Stuff the burrow with paper and leave it for a few days to determine whether the burrow is active or not.

    Implement these prevention tips to stop rodents from eating your profits:

    • Rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter and mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime. Seal cracks and openings in walls, foundation, and around doors and windows.
    • Cluttered areas provide a nice home for rodents. Keep closets and storage areas organized to help prevent nesting.
    • Cut back vegetation to help prevent a rodent habitat near your building.
    • Ensure your staff is removing garbage regularly, keeping a tidy dumpster area, and placing tight-fitting lids on trash cans.
    • Store food properly in sealed containers and clean up messes promptly.

    Ongoing inspections and proactive pest prevention tactics as part of an integrated pest management program also play a vital role in protecting your property and reputation. Make an appointment with a PMP to accurately assess the pest pressures your hotel is under based on your location, climate, architecture, and more. A PMP will identify “hot spots,” or areas that are likely to attract pests, in and around your property. They may discover sanitation issues, entry points where pests can get in, food and water sources that attract pests, and harborage zones or places pests are currently inhabiting. Working closely with a PMP to regularly inspect and to develop or assess your pest management program makes it more adaptable to the changing needs of your property.

    Pests may be small but their impact to your business could be large. And in an era where one bad review can alter your brand’s reputation, it is crucial that hotel staff be equipped with the knowledge to prevent and identify pest problems. Arm your team with knowledge and work with a pest management professional so you can control problems before they have a negative impact. •

    Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets. Learn more about Western by visiting