5 On Your Side

Family learns meaning of 'Don't let the bed bugs bite'

Posted July 1, 2008
Updated July 2, 2008

Amber Hinson knew the popular saying: “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” but that phrase took on a whole new meaning when the critters crawled on her son.

Hinson said she noticed Cody, 2 ½, scratching a lot, mostly on his legs and arms.

“The bites became infected,” she said.

Hinson, her boyfriend and Cody believe they picked up the bed bugs at a motel while vacationing in Tennessee. Since then, they've thrown out their old mattress and called in pest control. They often sleep elsewhere.

"About four years ago, we saw no bed bugs at all. Since then, we've seen a steady increase. We see anywhere from one-to-two a month,” said Jamie Smith, a pest control provider.

The state of North Carolina does not keep records on the number of bed bug infestations, but a nation-wide survey shows pest control providers are seeing a dramatic increase.

Bed bugs can be smaller than Lincoln’s head on a penny.

U.S populations are reportedly up some 500 percent in the past few years. The reason, according to experts, is the use of less noxious pesticides and an increase in travel.

Travelers can pick up bed bugs at hotels and motels, and bring them home in their luggage.

“I never ever thought I would be going through such a thing as this,” Hinson said. “It's disrupted our lives a little bit."

Hinson said she wants the public to know that bed bugs are not an economic or cleanliness issue. It's more about bringing home an unwanted souvenir from a trip that was supposed to be fun.

“If I can get them, anyone can get them,” she said.

So how can you protect yourself? When you go to a hotel or motel, check for bedbugs in the places they like to hide: carpet edges, mattress seams and pillow case linings.

Some of the signs you might find: eggs, droppings, tiny bloodstains and even the bugs themselves in folds and seams.

Experts also say not to leave clothing on a bed or sofa that could be infested. They suggest using hangers or hooks to keep clothing elevated from the floor or bed.

It is also important to elevate luggage from the floor. Luggage can be placed on a table or luggage stand. Suitcases should be closed when not in use.

If you find a bed bug, collect it and show it to the hotel or motel manager.

Since bed bugs are most active an hour before dawn, a technique for finding them is to have a flashlight in your room. Without turning on any room lights, use it to inspect your mattress at that hour.

If you do have bed bugs, experts say call a professional to get rid of them.

Smith uses steam to kill the insects and the eggs. Targeted insecticide is also a common part of the treatment process.

Since bedding cannot be sprayed, infested mattresses sometimes have to be thrown out. 


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  • AFLOWERS Jul 7, 2008

    Never thought about this before !!! But I'd say it is a bit scarey !! I will definitely check out my hotel rooms from now on !

  • garden Jul 4, 2008

    Hmmmmmmm, from now on I will check the beds before I unpack in hotels.

  • kiminnc2003 Jul 3, 2008

    UNC-Born-Bred I was met with the same resistance from the manager of the hotel I stayed in. It was an exhausting conversation. She informs me that the beds on that floor were all new. Well that was all well and good, but the bedding in that room was not new. It was a bed spread. Interestingly enough the other rooms that the rest of the bridal party stayed in all had new down comforters on their beds, all except our room. I really do hope they crack down on this. I have quite a bit of scaring/discoloration on the backs of my legs from the 20-some bites I received. It might be a long time before I stay at another hotel.

  • pisgah2005 Jul 3, 2008

    SweetLittlePeekapoo Pup - The hotel in Boone was the High Country Inn. - There were bed bugs in at least one bed in the room we stayed in. We did not switch to another room at the same hotel, which was an option offered to us. Hopefully the hotel addressed the issue properly early in 2007.

  • watch out here i come Jul 2, 2008

    Had the same problem with a Motel 6 in Winston Salem. Had been staying at a different Hotel w/no problems. figured it out when the Bites were on One Arm but not the other.

  • Lissa13082 Jul 2, 2008

    pisgah2005 - which hotel in Boone was it? I often visit Boone!

  • UNC-Born-Bred Jul 2, 2008

    I used to travel a lot for business and started noticing these sore spots on my arms. I finally realized that they had to be from bed bugs at the hotels I stayed in. I happened to have been staying in the same hotel chain over a period of several weeks so I wrote the company. One of the hotel managers called and was flabergasted that I had complained about bed bugs. He assured me that the hotel was clean. I told him I went to the hotel with no bites and when I got home I had several bites on my arms.

  • mbalady Jul 2, 2008


  • pisgah2005 Jul 1, 2008

    We stayed in a hotel in Boone in March 2007 and found bed bugs in our room. My son and I had fallen asleep on the bed while waiting for my husband to return to the hotel room. We woke up when my husband opened the door, and we found bugs on the bed around our heads! We thought they might be bed bugs, but we'd never seen any before. We collected samples of the bugs in pieces of Scotch tape, took digital photos, and packed up and left immediately. We alerted the hotel (who refunded our money) and the local health department (who confirmed that the bugs were indeed bed bugs). We went through each piece of our clothing numerous times, and called Terminix to fumigate our luggage when we returned home. We washed all clothing in hot water (thereby ruining some of it!) Now we thoroughly check beds in hotel rooms before we ever start unpacking, and we never sit our luggage on the bed, but rather on a luggage stand or on a table or dresser!

  • kiminnc2003 Jul 1, 2008

    I stayed at a pretty nice hotel in High Point recently and had the same issue. The management was not sympathetic and I felt completely helpless. I searched the government sites to see if there were inspections that were made public, but according to my research and this story, the state does not provide that information. Please do not make the same mistake I did. If you wake with bites, tell the management immediately. It did not cross my mind that it was bed bugs until after I went home and by then it is really too late.