Vector image of a woman with a magnifying glass focused in on a bed bug

The damage from COVID-19 to hotels may not be over once the government green lights a return to travel, according to Spotta. The UK-based creator of smart pest systems says dormant bed bugs will live around a year without feeding, waiting for hotel guests to return. 

“If your hotel had bed bugs before lockdown, you’ll find them again when you reopen,” says Robert Fryers, CEO at Spotta, in a press release. “With a life span of more than a year, bed bugs are experts at conserving their energy when there’s no food available. And they’ll be hungry when your guests return.” 

While bed bugs are known to dislike light, rarely coming out during the day and hiding in the darkest places of hotel rooms such as under mattresses and in headboards, dormant bed bugs will awake from their slumber with an almost insatiable hunger, says Dr. Richard Naylor, director and chief entomologist at The Bed Bug Foundation.

“If they’ve been dormant for months, bed bugs will be highly aggressive, particularly when it’s dark," says Naylor. "If really hungry, they may also lose their phobia of light. This means bed bugs are much more likely to bite when a host returns.”

As part of their COVID-19 recovery planning, hotels should allow time for identifying and treating bed bugs before reopening to guests. 

But it’s not all bad news for hoteliers, according to Naylor.

“Bed bugs are unlikely to be transmitted between buildings as people’s movement is restricted," he says. "Whilst dormant, the bed bugs also won’t be moving around your business, so you’re likely to find them where they were before shutting your doors. Having known infestations treated by specialists is key to providing your guests a safe environment to return to, whilst monitoring systems are a good way to ensure guests won’t get savaged as the bed bugs awake looking for a feed.”