Best Practices to Avoid an Infestation; Meeting Invitation for Industry Professionals 

Check hotel rooms for bed bugs

University of Tennessee expert gives tips to avoid a bed bug infestation in your home, especially for travelers and bargain shoppers who frequent garage or yard sales. ​Travelers are encouraged to check hotel rooms before unpacking, as seen in the image above. Image courtesy UTIA.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Spring and summer months bring all sorts of favorite activities, like traveling and shopping for deals at yard sales. But University of Tennessee Extension entomologist Karen Vail says these activities could leave you at a greater risk for a bed bug infestation.

According to Vail, “Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. They can enter homes via infested luggage, backpacks, purses, clothing and furniture. Depending on their stage of life, bed bugs can be one twenty-fifth to one third of an inch in size, which makes them extremely difficult to spot.”

While traveling, Vail advises keeping luggage and suitcases away from the bed. Consider storing suitcases in the bathroom or place them in a sealable plastic bag. If staying in a hotel, always inspect the room before you unpack, checking for bed bugs behind the headboard, along the mattress seam, and any other cracks and crevices. If you do find bed bugs, ask for a different room immediately. Before leaving the hotel, check your luggage, and then wash and dry your clothes as soon as you arrive home. If you’re in a hurry, leave your suitcase in a sealed bag until you have time to inspect and clean it.

For those who enjoy shopping at yard or garage sales, Vail suggests closely inspecting any item before bringing it into your home. This goes for new-to-you beds, bedding, furniture, appliances, clothing, purses, backpacks and briefcases. Vail says you may want to consider placing purchased items into a small heat chamber designed to kill bed bugs or using a steamer on them before bringing them into your home. Be sure to read equipment directions to avoid damaging items. “A garage sale bargain can quickly become expensive if it brings bed bugs into your home,” she cautions.

Vail carries a lint roller made to remove pet hair when she travels. These sticky sheets easily catch bed bugs when rolled over them.  While this quick check can be reassuring, she recommends running clothing through the dryer after you get home. 

For industry professionals, like housing managers, pest control professionals, health department representatives and others, UT Extension has scheduled the 4th Annual Tennessee Bed Bug and Cockroach Management Meeting for August 1. The event will be held in Knoxville at the UT Conference Center, beginning at 7:30 a.m. The meeting features national experts, topics like community-wide bed bug management success, the future of bed bug detection and a question and answer panel with all speakers to conclude the day.

To register and for more information, go to The registration deadline for the one-day meeting is July 24. Cost is $100 for pest management professionals, while all others may register at a discounted cost of $50 per person. Registration fee includes lunch, parking in the Locust Street garage, meeting materials and six recertification points for pesticide certification card holders in categories 7, 8, 10 and 12.

For additional help and resources, visit or contact your local county Extension office. You can also follow the Urban Integrated Pest Management in Tennessee Facebook page.

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Karen Vail, professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology, 865-974-7138,


4th Annual Tennessee Bed Bug and Cockroach Management Meeting program