Bed bugs have become a growing problem for businesses throughout the country. While we tend to focus on hotels and resorts as hot spots for these pests general retail establishments have also been experiencing a noticeable uptick in bed bug infestations.
Bed bugs are most commonly introduced to retail shops via employees and customers. In order to stay ahead of any potential infestation retailers need to have a bed bug action plan in place. A plan that will teach employees how to spot bed bugs and what to do if they find evidence of bed bug activity in the store.
Bed Bug Behavior and Identification
The most important part of any Bed Bug Action Plan is understanding their behavior and knowing how to spot them in a retail environment. Bed bugs behave differently in public spaces than they do in home environments, so it’s a good idea to go over some important points with your on-site staff.
Let’s look at a few basic points of interest:
- The average adult bed bug measures roughly 1/4” long and 1/8” wide and are reddish brown in color.
- Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood. However, they can and will feed on other animals when necessary.
- Bed bugs are experts at hiding from humans. They will hide in any available crack or crevice. A simple rule of thumb: if a credit card can fit in a gap a bed bug can as well.
- Bed bugs are champion hitchhikers. This is the most common method they use to move from one location to another. Bed bugs can be easily introduced to retail environments via incoming stock, delivery drivers, employees’ clothing and personal belongings, shop equipment, returned merchandise and, of course, customers.
- Bed bugs typically feed during the early hours of the morning. However, in retail establishments they typically adapt to feed whenever an available host is present.
- Complaints from employees or customers about being bitten may be a sign of a growing bed bug problem. It is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to a bed bug bite. Some people will develop large itchy welts, while others may have no reaction at all. If you are getting reports from employees or guests about bed bug bites chances are the problem has been brewing for some time.
Bed Bug Hot Spots in Retail Environments
There are high risk areas in any retail environment that will be more likely to encounter bed bug activity. These areas should be regularly inspected, and employees working in the areas should be taught how to spot signs of a potential bed bug problem.
Typical bed bug hot spots retailers should monitor include:
- High traffic areas including reception areas and lobbies.
- Designated employ areas including break rooms, lounges, and locker rooms.
- Stock rooms and holding areas. Bed bugs have been known to hide in crates of incoming merchandise and in and around storage areas.
- Areas where returned merchandise is stored along with any carts or carriages used to transport customer returns to storage.
How to Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation in Your Business
In order to effectively manage bed bugs in your business it is important to have a plan in place. Regular inspections are the first step. An effective inspection program can be broken down into three parts:
1-Monitor Incoming Stock, Customer Returns, and Storage Areas –
- Employees should inspect all incoming goods and supplies for signs of bed bug activity.
- Inspect all customer returns.
- Develop a quarantine process to store any items suspected of bed bug activity.
2-Monitor Employee Areas and Common Areas –
- Instigate weekly or monthly locker inspections to monitor for bed bug activity.
- Minimize clutter to reduce bed bug hiding places.
- Quarantine employee belongings suspected of bed bug activity. Place items in sealable plastic bags to prevent any possible spread of the pests.
3-Professional Inspections –
- Schedule regular canine inspections to monitor potential bed bug activity
- Bed bug traps and other monitoring devices should be deployed in high-risk areas.
Prevent Panic with a Bed Bug Plan
The most important thing business owners need to remember is quick action can prevent a major bed bug problem. If regular employee inspections turn up signs of bed bug activity call in a pest control service at the earliest opportunity. The sooner you act the less likely you are to experience any major disruptions to your business.
Published by Scott Palatnik
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