Multiple websites have popped up in recent years in which individuals can report claims of bed bug infestations. Many of these registries or databases include hotels, motels, apartments and other locations in which bed bugs may be encountered. While these sites may be found to be useful by travelers and other individuals, there are a few things that should be kept in mind when utilizing these sites. Unlike certain contagious diseases, a bed bug infestation is not a mandatory reportable occurrence. Therefore, the registries, although sometimes helpful, are not complete reflections of ALL bed bug infestations. Another consideration when accessing the registries or databases is that a vast majority of the reports come from individuals instead of trained professionals. While it is quite possible that the person did in fact encounter bed bugs, there are also related species including bat bugs, poultry bugs and swallow bugs that to a majority of people look exactly like bed bugs; however, they actually indicate that there may be a completely separate problem that also needs to be resolved, such as a bat roost or nesting birds on the exterior or void spaces within the building. Exact diagnosis requires a professional trained in the identification of individual species or at minimum a professional completing a thorough inspection to rule out other possibilities.
Remember that bed bug infestations can take upwards of 30 days to show significant typical signs of infestation; therefore, finding a single bed bug does not always indicate that there is a severe infestation. Management should of course still be notified and transfer to a different room away from the potential infestation is recommended during your stay at a motel or hotel. If management is not notified they may not become aware of a potential problem for an extended period of time, allowing the infestation to increase. Any travelers are encouraged to thoroughly inspect their room prior to bringing in and unpacking personal items in order to decrease the risk of contamination. Removal of sheets to check the mattress and box spring as well as inspecting headboards, chairs and drawers are all ways in which travelers can protect themselves. In general, yes, these registries and databases can be helpful; however, we do not recommend them as your only source of information. Being an educated traveler is the best way to avoid bringing home unwanted bed bug guests.