In most cases, tourists are responsible for bringing the microscopic bugs into hotels, in their luggage. Bed bugs are only a few millimetres in size, about the size and shape of an apple seed, and feed on blood – preferably human.
These pesky parasites can cause severe itching and welt-like bites, and it's costly to get rid of them if they follow you home. They prefer to live in warm buildings, and in particular near or in beds and bedding.
They are particularly active in the warm, summer months – and tend to affect hotels during their busiest season. “We’re usually called in by the hotel owners themselves – either because they know what to look for and suspect they have bed bugs or because a guest has complained about being bitten,” pest control expert Benedict Segur-Cabanac says.
He told the ORF that the new trend among pest controllers is to use specially trained dogs to sniff out the bugs. “Bed bugs have a very special smell, and dogs have a highly developed sense of smell. It can take a human a long time to find a bed bug, but a dog can detect a bed bug infestation very quickly and reliably,” he said.
Alongside pest controllers and sniffer dogs the hotel industry is focussing on prevention, and training employees to recognise signs of an infestation. “Before the start of the season general cleaning and renovation work is carried out, and this is when bed bug infestations are generally found,” according to Reinhold Hauk of the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce.