MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach and Florence are two of the worst cities in the U.S. for bed bugs. That's according to the annual Orkin 2014 Bed Bug Report. This is the first time Myrtle Beach and Florence made the list, ranking 45 out of 50 worst cities.
Being considered a clean and happy place is crucial to the success of the Grand Strand as a tourist destination. Tom Moore, the general manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites on Ocean Boulevard, says bed bugs are a serious problem facing the hotels and the tourism industry in Myrtle Beach.
"I don't care if you're the cleanest hotels there is," says Moore. "We take pride in being very, very clean. But if you are, there's still that chance that people will bring them in."
The Hampton Inn & Suites does not have a bed bug problem. But Moore says as the Grand Strand grows in popularity among tourists, the hotel industry will continue to see an increase in bed bug activity. Bed bugs are not limited to any level of cleanliness or income, so they can be found in any home or hotel. They're great hitchhikers, and people often bring them inside on their clothes or in their luggage.
Moore says being proactive and taking every precaution is the hotel's top priority. That's why the maintenance staff is highly trained and checks for bed bugs daily. They check under the beds, on the bed skirts, along the base boards, behind the headboards, night stands, and pictures. And at the first warning sign of bed bugs, they take immediate action.
"No matter how hard you try, people bring them in. I mean, they come from other places. Guests coming from far away places, coming back in, stopping some place along the road. They can pick them up. So we have to be real, real cautious," Moore says.
It's not just hotels that need to be on guard. Exterminators warn home owners need to check for these creepy crawlers as well. Bed bugs are not seasonal. They can infest your home any time of the year. Bed bugs can accidentally get into your home from your guests, from second-hand furniture or clothing, or from a simple trip to the mall or movie theater. So any inspection of your home will help save you a lot of trouble in the long run if you can catch them early on. So take a lesson from the hotel industry, and be proactive to check every nook and cranny of your home for bed bugs.
"Typically they like to go get their meal and get back into hiding," says Randy Strickland, the Myrtle Beach branch manager for Orkin.
Bed bugs are attracted to humans because they want a blood meal. And the bugs won't go too far from their food source. That's why they'll stick to any areas near your bed. So take a hint from the hotels' strict guidelines and check your home periodically.
Look for little red, brown, or black marks. That's a sign of blood or fecal matter from the bed bugs. Quarantine any second hand furniture, luggage, or clothing you bring into the house. And do not put any luggage on the bed. It is best to put suitcases on a luggage rack, counter, table, or even in the bath tub. It's even a good idea to first put your or your guests' clothes in the dryer on the highest setting. The extreme heat for 15 to 20 minutes will kill the bugs.
"They just catch a ride and move around. So it's really not surprising to see with all of our tourism, we're eventually getting up on that [Orkin] list, unfortunately," says Strickland.
So far there is no evidence to show that bed bugs transfer diseases. But depending on your sensitivity, you could get a welt or rash after the bugs bite you.
The Orkin list ranks the U.S. cities by the number of bed bug treatments Orkin performed from January to December 2014. Rollins, the company that manages Orkin, saw an 18 percent increase in bed bug revenue in 2014. That's despite the price of services not rising, meaning more people are calling for an exterminator. The problem is growing nationwide. According to an annual report on the pest control industry, Americans spent $446 million to get rid of bed bugs in 2013, the latest data available, compared to $70 million in 2004.