I Bust Some Science Out On Bed Bugs

The Moon as seen by an observer from Earth. So...

Super. Yeah, whatever dude. (Image via Wikipedia)

I spent a little time on the road last week. Naturally, my mind turned to science, because we all know that is the way my mind turns when it has no where else to go.

I considered doing some work in astronomy when I became aware there was to be a Supermoon. My conclusion was that while this “Supermoon” was very nice to see and a truly rare opportunity, it was by no means super. I saw no cape. It could not go around the world backward and make time go backward with it. Clearly this was a regular moon that had snuck a little closer and gotten some good press coverage. Super? No.

When I put astronomy aside, I realized where my week’s work had to be focused. Entomology.

Good Night…

I have never seen a bed bug in person. I’ve seen pictures and some television video clips when the recent “invasion” of bed bugs started. I think that is enough.

Image via Wikipedia

While some would look at this lack of exposure to my topic as a handicap to my science and the eventual conclusion that I will reveal to you, I think it enhances my thinking on the topic. Entomologists know about bed bugs. People call them all the time and tell them awful stories about them. This “knowledge” is a handicap to seeing the problem and its solution clearly.

I know nothing. I can provide an unlimited number of people who can testify to that. Unfettered by knowledge, I will now resolve the bedbug problem that is said to be plaguing hotels in the US.

…Sleep Tight…

If you have spent any appreciable amount of time in hotels recently you will have noticed that they are taking steps to help the environment.

More efficient climate controls are in place in newer hotels. Some have new “green roofs“.  In the kitchens, waste is turned to compost for the grounds. But there is one particular innovation that is marketed as “green” and “environmentally friendly” and that innovation is the cause of the bed bug problem.

magdalene laundries washing machine

Giant old laundry machine or iron lung. You decide. (Image by Robynlou8 via Flickr)

Many hotels now have an environmentally friendly laundry policy.  They now only wash the bed sheets once every three days, or when a guest leaves the hotel and the sheets are changed. To be sure, they will change and wash the sheets daily, if the guest takes the time to put their little placard on the bed to request it be done.

I’m certain this policy is, in its way, very environmentally responsible. Many of the hotel room cards that explain the policy point out the large amount of detergents and hot water required to wash hotel bed linens. Producing detergent and hot water uses a great deal of energy and creates damage to our planet when they are used.

Let’s face it though, the lodging industry isn’t about saving the earth here, they are saving their bottom line. Less money invested in laundry products, in wear and tear on linens and in housekeeping staff equals more money in the corporate till.

…Don’t Let The Bed Bugs…

So suppose I have a bed bug problem in my house. I travel and stay in a hotel for three days. Because I am an environmentalist (and I am, but a bed bug free one) I do not tell the hotel to change my sheets. The bugs who have traveled with me have three days to establish a foothold in the room. I move out, the hotel staff cleans up, you move in and go home with my little friends in your clothing.

You get to bring home these nasty little souvenirs because the hotel is using people’s desire to help preserve our planet as a way to help raise their profit margin. Was there a “bed bug invasion” ten years ago when we all got clean sheets every day in hotels? I think not.


I urge you to be as environmentally aware as you possibly can. Recycle. Cut back on fossil fuel use. Improve the insulation in your house.

Make the hotel wash your sheets. Yes, you don’t get fresh sheets every day at home, but then you don’t have ten different people sleeping in your bed every month either. If  you do have ten people sleeping over every month I won’t judge you, but I will urge you to change sheets more frequently.

Bed bug invasion in hotels? I blame the hotels. Make them wash the sheets. Ten to fifteen minutes in a home dryer will kill bed bugs.

Make them wash the sheets!

Yeah, I’m a scientist.


52 Comments on “I Bust Some Science Out On Bed Bugs”

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I’M AGREEING WITH YOU 100%!! I used all caps because it outrages me that hotels are using green thinking to fire housekeeping staff who were only making minimum wage anyway. The heck with them. I’m getting my clean sheets every single day. I’ll be in Atlanta in just a few days and first thing I do is an inspection. My brother said you have to pull back the mattress cover and then check the stitching crevices for the bugs. I’m going one step further. I’m packing a blow torch.

    Stay with science; it’s for sure your speciality.

  2. Jane says:

    Excellent scientific reasoning, Oma.

    And when you do wash the sheets at home, make sure the hot water heater is set to at least 130 degrees to kill the dust mites that are probably related to the bed bugs.

  3. thejaggedman says:

    I have a wife, who like you, demands clean sheets so I am happy to know that we are not part of the problem but part of the solution. For once. Awesome post and thanks for helping me become more scientific in the process!

  4. linlah says:

    Or you could do what I do and not travel cause that would involve making the spouse travel too and he’s not a good traveller, because he never figured out t’s an adventure, he was damaged as a child.

  5. The moon may not have been “super”, but Anna got some pretty pictures of it:

    You’re probably right about the sheet washing thing too!


  6. Katybeth says:

    Our super moon hide behind the clouds. What a baby.
    Long before bed bugs–I wanted the hotel to change our sheets everyday–what is the point of staying in a hotel otherwise. Clean fresh towels everyday as well. And darn it a little mint on my fresh clean pillow case.
    Tea Oil. We have never had lice–I forbid it, told Cole all his hair would fall out if he ever put anyone else’s hat on his head and put tea oil on his shirt collars. What this has to do with bed bugs–is I learned it also offends bed bugs–but truthfully, I just don’t have the energy to worry about them much…I just say don’t let the bed bugs bite and hope for the best–not very scientific of me…I know.

    • omawarisan says:

      Don’t miss the pictures in the comment above, apparently it picked and chose who it was super to.

      Tea oil? Never realized that. Does it smell like tea? I mean obviously it does to bugs, but to everyone else?

  7. Todd Pack says:

    That’s no moon. That’s a space station.

  8. Laura says:

    You should be flattered that I read this post, even though the bed bugs in the title made my skin crawl.

    The first time I saw one of those “we’ll only change the linens if you force us to, because we care so much about the environment” signs was in a hotel room that had a leaky bathroom faucet. I called the front desk to report it, but they never fixed it in the week I was there. I guess their commitment to conservation only went so far.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m flattered people read anything here! Thanks for coming back.

      I was putting the post together and struggling to find a bed bug picture that didnt make me sick. I thought people would not be able to get past them, the drawing works out. I should start producing my own drawings in that situation.

      You have some nerve on that faucet thing. Do you know how much energy it takes to make a washer to fix a faucet? We wont even get into the carbon footprint of a plumber…and his kids. 😉

  9. Betty says:

    Ick. I worry about bed bugs every time I travel. There is a website you can check to see if there have been reports of bed bugs at properties, but I have a feeling many don’t get reported on this sight. I’ll usually throw the “change the sheets” card on the bed every other night but that will now change to every night.

  10. Totally with you on the sheets? What’s your stance on towels?

    A moon with a cape would be so awesome, but one day I’m really hoping to see ET in a bicycle basket when I look up.

  11. Wendi says:

    Oma, I probably should have waited till next week to read this. Because this weekend I will be traveling. And now when I check in to my hotel, all I will be able to think about is how I am indirectly sleeping with everyone who has ever been in that bed. Ick, nast.

  12. madtante says:

    Even years ago, when I got to go to Hawaii (right after 9/11–the plane wasn’t even 1/3 full and everybody else on it was military…they have a large base there), they didn’t change the sheets the ENTIRE TIME.

    I was too embarrassed to ask at the front desk but DAYEM. I’m older now and think that I might just. WTF

  13. Debbie says:

    I almost didn’t read your post because I just got back from staying in a hotel, and even the thought of bed bugs makes me itch! Nevertheless, you raise an interesting point about the “green effect.” As a child traveling with my family, we never worried about bed bugs in hotels — today, I practically sleep with the lights on to ward them off (and this, in nice hotels!). No, I don’t change my sheets at home every day, but that’s part of the luxury of vacations and such — having somebody wait on you and getting fresh linens daily!

  14. planetross says:

    Don’t forget the first part of that saying, “Sleep Tight”.

    I sleep tight sometimes, but usually I go to bed sober.

    note: I don’t have a bedbug problem … I sleep on a futon. hee hee!

  15. Pauline says:

    I am all for saving the environment, but that is crazy that they don’t wash the sheets after each guest! Asides from bed bugs, I don’t want to sleep in another person’ flakes and God knows what else!

    They could switch to Green Works laundry detergent. It will still be a waste of water, but at least the detergent will be greener.

  16. pattypunker says:

    i tell them to change the sheets and replace the towels everyday because i like to be a spoiled bitch when i travel. but thank you for giving me a conscionable reason to be so demanding.

  17. That moon wasn’t super…it didn’t even have a big S on its chest…

  18. The reason people my mother’s age did not worry about bed bugs was the y did not travel much and they took their mattresses off the bed twice a year and soaked them in kerosene. Yup! they must have smelt really great. Is there a higher incidence of some kind of cancer in 89 year olds??

    I hear that, beside washing your sheets in hot water, you put your mattresses and pillows in plastic covers with zippers and that will kill the bed bugs, but it takes three months. Somehow, I think I would have trouble sleeping with a bundle of bed bugs crawling over each other under my head; plastic between us or not.

    • omawarisan says:

      Kerosene was kind of a cure for everything wasn’t it?

      I don’t think the plastic covering/three month method would work for me either, both for the reason you mention of knowing they’re there and because all the gasping for air sounds would just be disturbing!

  19. The Hipster says:

    There must be more than raspberry in your cocoa. 🙂

  20. Greg says:

    I think the problem is with those filthy, nasty, petri dish comforters on top of the beds. My job has me in motels and hotels all over my own city and throughout the country. I see the laundry rooms and in 18 years I have never even once seen a comforter in there. The first thing I do when I get into a room I’m staying in is remove the thing and stuff it into a corner with the bottom of my shoe.

  21. I know nothing. I can provide an unlimited number of people who can testify to that.

    Love this.

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