Bed bugs are a real concern for travelers, and some in the Upstate said they've seen them in area hotels and motels.
After legislation to regulate the critters in hotels and public places died in committee, the question arises as to who is responsible now - and what travelers can do about them.
Apparently welts from bedbugs aren't uncommon. Larry Motes, an entomologist with Greenville-based Gregory Pest Solutions, said he's had people recently bring him dead bugs, asking if they're bed bugs. He said they're easy to spot and oftentimes are bed bugs.
Gregory uses canines that are specially trained to find bed bugs to seek them out so Motes' crews can get rid of them.
Motes said in the last five years, business for bed bugs has increased 50-fold. Crews are called to homes, apartments, even movie theatres, retail stores and hotels, in every price range, for bed bugs.
The bugs are described as flat and less than half an inch long, so it's easy for them to hide in small cracks. They can last months without fresh blood, but the more blood females get, the more eggs they lay.
"It's pretty awful isn't it? You can start with one and probably have several thousand in just than a year," said Motes. "If you just ignore it and think, 'oh it'll go away,' it'll quickly turn into a severe infestation."
The hotel who contacted FOX Carolina said she asked the front desk at a Greenville motel to send crews to spray the room. She wasn't sure if they did or didn't, but she said the bugs didn't go away. She even called South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (D-HEC), which said they couldn't do anything.
It's true. DHEC doesn't have jurisdiction to do anything about bed bugs in motels or public places. Its web site cites that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't consider bed bugs a public health threat. Motes said he's never heard of anyone proving that bed bugs transfer diseases, either.
Since South Carolina doesn't have any "laws, regulations or funding to address bed bug infestations," the critters aren't DHEC's problem.
Spartanburg Sen. Glenn Reese stays in hotels during the legislative session and is quite aware of the bed bug situation. He tried to pass legislation on bed bugs, two years ago. He learned about the frustrating pests, after a constituent who owned a furniture business suggested more regulation.
The bill he sponsored sat stagnant in committee and died at the end of the 2011 legislative session.
Until then, residents and travelers need to look for signs of bedbugs, and remove them themselves.
Motes said bed bugs have anesthesia as they bite so people don't usually feel them. He said "they process the blood very quickly," which means the blood meals they've eaten are excreted out through their abdomen.
A sign of bed bugs may be a rust, or blood, colored stain on small crevices of mattresses or on the wall. Motes suggests to check the nightstand, headboard, near wall outlets and baseboards.
But bug spray, Motes said, isn't reliable anymore. He explained that since bedbugs were rampant back in the 1940s and 50s, the chemicals were overused, and since the late 1990s, the bugs became resistant.
Motes said he sees governments looking to change landlord/tenant acts to give responsibility to businesses and owners. In his business, he's seen that most hotels or public places don't want the bedbug stigma, so they find professionals to heat them out.
If there is an infestation, Gregory put heaters into a room and literally, heats it, up to 135 degrees, for four hours. The bugs die and crews clean them out.
When it comes to travel and the higher risk of picking up bed bugs, some tips to avoid bringing the critters back to your house include not putting luggage on the bedding, furniture or floor, but rather keep it on the luggage rack or on a non-fabric surface.
Hang up coats and clothing, and be sure to check the seams of mattresses and in small spaces, before lying down for a good night's rest.
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