Traveling Bed Bug Free During Vacation

by Marcia Anderson

A close friend, Sandra, recently contacted me for advice on a bed bug incident she had in a shore bungalow she had rented for a family vacation.

It was not until the family noticed strange bites on the second and third mornings in the bungalow that they thought to look for bugs. They found bed bugs on the mattresses, box springs and on bed frames, and that was just for starters. They also found some behind the night stand and tucked into floor moldings. She sent me photos to confirm the diagnosis. Yes, they were bed bugs, and lots of them. You can see an example of them mounded along the seams of the mattress in the photo below.

Bed bugs in mattress seam

Nothing like a bed bug scare to bring the entire family together! Sandra admitted that neither she nor her husband inspected the dwelling before they moved in all of their luggage. In addition, they promptly plopped their suitcases on the beds when they arrived.

Based on the number and life stages of bed bugs that I saw in her photographs, those insects had set up house long ago and have been happily biting and breeding for many months.

Sandra confronted the owner, but she swore that the property never had bed bugs and the family must have brought them in and infested her property. They argued, but to no avail. It was a painful and time consuming lesson.

Many people have a fear of bringing bed bugs home due to the social stigma associated with them.  Once established, bed bugs can be very difficult to eliminate. One reason is that bed bugs have developed resistance to many commonly used pesticides. Another is that they hide in very tiny places and only come out to feed every fourth or fifth day.

The best advice that I can give vacationers to avoid a repeat of Sandra’s story is to go to the EPA bed bug website and download the Travelers Beware of Bed Bugs card. Keep it in your wallet and follow the directions carefully when you are about to stay anywhere outside of your home. The University of Minnesota also has an informative flier on inspecting your hotel room for bed bugs.

It is recommended that you:

  • Leave your luggage in the car a few extra minutes or place it in the rental property’s bathtub.
  • NEVER lay luggage on the bed.
  • Use a small flashlight (LEDs are best) and magnifying glass to look for signs of bed bugs. If you have children, you can all play Sherlock Holmes while you inspect the mattress seams, box springs, headboards, upholstered furniture, luggage rack, and other places around the room for bed bugs. Anyone who finds one gets a prize.
  • Say something immediately if you find any bed bugs. You stand a better chance of bargaining for bed bug-free lodging.

Tips for travelers to prevent bed bugs

If you are concerned about bringing bed bugs home with you, download EPA’s bed bug prevention, detection and control flier and follow the directions carefully.

Bed bugs should be managed using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.  IPM is a long-term, sustainable, approach to successful pest management. IPM programs address not only the safety concerns of using pesticides, but also focus on solution-based practices that identify, solve, and prevent future pest issues. Bed bug IPM is not a one-size-fits-all method or silver bullet, but rather a combination of biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools that minimize health and environmental risks.

It is better to be safe than sorry and to take precautions when it comes to bed bugs.  Because once bed bugs become established, they can be very costly and hard to control.

Sandra and her family followed all of the IPM steps they were given to insure they were bed bug free when they returned home. They placed all of their clothing in tightly sealed plastic bags inside their luggage until it could be washed and heat dried. They also placed the luggage in large plastic bags so, just in case a bed bug did decided to hitchhike home with them, it would not be welcomed inside. They placed their books in clear plastic zip-top bags and small electronics into separate zip-top bags until they could be carefully inspected and cleaned. Finally, they purchased a few sets of bed bug interceptors to place under the legs of their beds and couch to trap any wandering bed bugs…just in case.

Have a safe and bed bug free vacation!

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Eight Years Later: EPA Assists Iowa City’s Sustainable Recovery After Historic 2008 Flood

By David Doyle

In June 2008, parts of eastern Iowa were devastated by a 500-year flood, the second such event in 15 years. Total losses from the flooding were estimated at nearly $3.5 billion.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

The disaster’s greatest impact was on Cedar Rapids, where more than 5,200 homes and almost 1,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. However, the flood also affected dozens of other communities along the Des Moines, Cedar, Iowa, and Mississippi rivers and their many tributaries.

My Role in Tornado Recovery

The previous year, I had been assigned to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) long-term community recovery efforts in response to the EF-5 tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kan. This was my first opportunity to participate in a long-term recovery effort in response to a natural disaster.

Aftermath of Iowa flooding, June 2008

EPA’s traditional role after disasters primarily had been responding to the threat and impacts from the release of hazardous materials, along with addressing the impacts on community water and wastewater systems. Long-term recovery was a relatively new role for EPA and involved providing assistance with sustainable community planning to make a community more sustainable and resilient to future disasters.

My role in Greensburg was to help FEMA develop the long-term community recovery plan which was completed after several months of work and quickly implemented, eventually making Greensburg arguably the greenest city in the country.

In 2008, I was again assigned to work with FEMA in Iowa on post-disaster, sustainable long-term planning efforts. I quickly realized that making such plans after a flood was very different than for a tornado.

A Very Different Experience

While Greensburg was a one-square-mile city, much of Iowa was impacted in one way or another by this flood. Fortunately, then Governor Chet Culver established a state government agency called the Rebuild Iowa Office, which spent considerable time immediately after the disaster working with FEMA to determine the long-term recovery needs of communities.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

Meanwhile, learning from my experience in Greensburg, I started to reach out to various EPA headquarters offices looking for assistance, knowing there was no funding available from EPA Region 7 to assist with the needed recovery planning.

I quickly found that EPA’s offices of Sustainable Communities and Brownfields & Land Revitalization were willing partners. Both provided funding to bring in technical experts on economic development, transportation planning, and sustainable urban design.

Iowa City Makes the Most of EPA’s Assistance

The Iowa community that took most advantage of these resources was Iowa City, the state’s fourth largest city and home to the University of Iowa and a major medical center. For years, the city had been looking to redevelop an area south of their downtown. The 2008 flood gave them an opportunity to do just that.

This 30-square-block area, renamed the Riverfront Crossings District, includes an aging wastewater treatment plant, recycling center, animal shelter, and various other underutilized properties, many of which were impacted by the flooding.

Diagram from EPA’s “Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure”

After conducting a retail and housing market analysis, along with a transit-oriented development study, both commissioned by EPA, it was decided that this area could be transformed into a mixed-use, pedestrian- and transit-friendly neighborhood. Again, utilizing EPA funding, contractors with expertise in sustainable urban planning initiated a process to develop conceptual plans for such a neighborhood. After considerable interaction with local stakeholders, EPA finalized these plans in May 2011.

Since EPA’s Involvement

As it takes years – not only for plans to be finalized from conception, but also for them to be implemented – I recently asked Karen Howard, Iowa City’s assistant planning director, to update me on what has happened in the community since EPA’s involvement.

She said a Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan was adopted in 2013, along with a form-based zoning code for the district in 2014 (one of the recommendations from the initial EPA technical assistance grant).

Illustration of Riverfront Crossings District restoration after removal of wastewater plant

Since the form-based code was adopted, private investment in new construction totaled about $160 million, with many projects still under construction, and another $100 to $150 million in private investment is in the planning stages. This is only a small fraction of the redevelopment potential of the Riverfront Crossings District that Howard expects in the coming years.

New private building projects include two new hotels, a 6-story Class A office building, stand-alone restaurant, convenience store/gas station, craft brewery, multi-family and mixed-use buildings with ground floor retail space, and a considerable number of residential apartments and condominiums.

Public investment in the district includes the decommissioned and demolished, flood-prone wastewater treatment plant; the first phase of a new riverfront park, a 600-space public parking facility (under construction), new ambulance and medical examiners’ offices (under construction), and a new University of Iowa School of Music (completed in fall 2016). A number of street improvement projects are also in the planning stages.

The old saying, “With disaster brings opportunity,” certainly couldn’t be more applicable to the sustainable recovery efforts that rejuvenated Iowa City after the flood of 2008.

About the Author: David Doyle serves as the Sustainable Communities Coordinator at EPA Region 7. David has a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from Syracuse University, and a Master of Science in environmental health engineering from the University of Kansas.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Scent of Spring Awaits

by Jeff Lapp

Sarracenia flava

Preparations are almost complete for the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show, March 11-19!

Whether the show team at EPA is ready or not, the time for set-up is once again upon us.  The official day to begin construction of our display is March 6, however, plants have been forced for weeks and the show design and construction is nearing the end.

The theme for this year’s show is Holland and celebrating the multitude of contributions which that country has given to the horticultural industry.  EPA’s display, “America: Land of Flowers” will focus on the wonderful palette of native flora which thrive right here in our own backyards.  Many of these were exported abroad and returned to us with bigger and brighter flowers, but underneath they are still ancestors of the region’s rich diversity of native plants.

The weather in the past week or so has whetted our appetites for spring.  The Philadelphia Flower Show will cure our need for flowers and the scent of a season quickly knocking on our door step.

If you are in the area, please stop by the EPA display at the show and share in our celebration of native species, the unique habitats they create, the water savings and runoff protection they provide, and the important ecological role they fill.

 

About the author: Jeff Lapp is a Wetlands Scientist who has been working in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1989 and has been designing and forcing for the show since 1991.  He is an avid botanist and grows many native plants, specializing in our native pitcher plants, at his home in Bucks County.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.