(Guest Article: Tim Irons – When he lost his job in 2009, Tim started blogging about anything he could.)
It was like something out of a horror movie: thousands of tiny little blood-sucking bugs terrorizing innocent campers and residents of a California RV park.
Only this bedbug epidemic that hit Oasis Village RV Park near Bakersfield in 2009 was the real deal, complete with people covered in itchy bites and park management handing out cans of bug spray.
Bedbug infestations at campgrounds have even become a topic at a KOA's international camping conference, a cautionary tale to park owners about the potential risk bugs can cause.
It is a frequent topic for online camping forums and travel sites that allow RVers to share stories about spotting them everywhere from Oregon to South Carolina. Bed bugs pretty much have urban legend status, perfect for that next campfire tale about “that one campground, not far from here…”
Campgrounds and RV parks offer a new battle front in the modern battle against bedbugs, which until recently have only been seen at homes and hotels.
RV park conditions may even be better for bugs to thrive – lots of people are passing through, and there is lots of space, food, and places to hide and thrive.
But there are ways to beat the bugs, or at least keep them from following you home. RV park owners or on-site managers can take steps to keep infestations from spreading, and make visitors want to return, instead of forever remembering the site as ‘that bedbug place.’
- Know how to spot them.
According to Orkin, bed bugs are flat, oval and roughly the size of an apple seed. They’re reddish, lack wings but do have pincers.
If one has recently eaten, they can appear swollen and red.
You can also spot signs like small smears on bedding or furniture, shedded skins. You may sense a sweet yet unpleasant smell.
- Know where they can be.
The American Camp Association (ACA) said bed bugs go where people are, but they generally don’t venture too far from easy food sources (which is blood – like skeeters). They can live in or near bedding, even in walls or carpets.
At an RV park, they can easily travel in luggage or someone’s trailer or tent, and also can hibernate for months.
The ACA also suggests that they’re easier to spot at night when they’re more active.
- Know how to keep them away.
It’s not easy, but one strategy suggested by Bedbugregistry.com is to store your luggage and camping gear in a different spot than your sleeping area. This will keep them from jumping from your duffel bag to your bed. Look for ways that bed bugs can enter your RV or tent and caulk or patch openings. But an overly clean RV won’t make a difference, Bedbugregistry said.
- Know how to get rid of them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests regular washing of everything at your home in hot water, especially bedding and anything that may have touched the floor. Arguably though if the EPA says something it may not be that impactful.
If you’ve been camping, stop by the washer right when you get home, or even consider a commercial laundry facility that can accommodate larger items like sleeping bags.
Professional exterminators can help put together a treatment plan and have better tools to keep bed bugs from spreading.
Odd enough, I have heard that bed bugs cannot stand higher temperatures, so simply leaving your RV to bake for a couple of days without air conditioning may be enough to end their little lives. If you do try this please contact RV52 and inform me how it worked (or not).
- Be Diligent
Sheri and I regularly check any place or bed where we stay for the tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation before we unpack a single item.
And what article would finish with the good bye something like this: Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite! (a reference to rope tightened straw beds – go check it out).