Bed Bugs: Motorcyclists aren’t exempt




On one of my trips up to the Sierras I had a run in with these little critters that was less than pleasant. I didn’t know it at the time but one of the hotel beds I believe had these little critters inside of it. A week after arriving home I had about 150 bites that looked like this all over my midsection. Each of them itched like hell. In talking with the doctor and pest control person it appeared I got into a bed that had a large number of bugs that had not been fed in a while. Since bed bugs can live 18 months without a meal, stepping into a dormant room can be a nightmare. I was their holiday dinner. 🙁


Bed bugs can affect inexpensive motels up to high end hotels. They don’t discriminate. Higher end hotels may have more awareness and focus on prevention/treatment, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from the problem. Camping eliminates the bed bug risk, but sometimes a hot shower and comfortable bed can be too much to give up.

When thinking about luggage for your bikes, some options are less bedbug friendly than others. While no luggage is foolproof, some luggage options are better than others when it comes to limiting opportunities for bug transmission. Here are a few options to keep in mind:

  • Bedbugs like to hide near seams in fabric. Soft luggage tends to have beading and seams on the inside and outside of the luggage that make good hiding spots for bugs. I had hard luggage and they still got me. There is a small gap used for insulation they can hide in.
  • Rubbing alcohol kills bedbugs. It’s easy to wipe down hard luggage with some alcohol. Keep in mind though rubbing alcohol does not kill the bed bug eggs.
  • Hard luggage tends to seal better when not in use.
  • While most bugs won’t be able to withstand freeway winds, bedbug eggs have a very strong adhesive on them.

When checking into a hotel, here are some tips to help minimize the chances of bringing bugs home. Like the rest of motorcycling, this is an exercise in risk management. Not everyone will approach the risk/reward relationship the same way. I’ve done a considerable amount of research to find common recommendations in this area. One of the best experts out there is Jeff White of Bed Bug Central: and Bed Bug Central TV:

Hotel selection

Don’t assume that higher priced or higher rated hotels are cleaner.
Bedbugs don’t discriminate. They infect all types of hotels in all classes. Higher priced hotels may have more resources to spend on awareness, prevention, and treatment, but they aren’t exempt from the problem. For more information, check out:

Inspecting the room

Don’t assume if the room looks clean there are no bugs.

Only when the infestation is severe will you see signs of bugs at first glance. It takes a close eye to track down if a room is infested. Even at that, bugs can live in small numbers undetected. The most likely place for bed bugs to live is in the mattress.

  • Remove the comforter of the bed and place it in the far corner of the room. The comforters are not usually laundered every turn over of the room so they tend to be the dirtiest part of the bed. Heat the room so you will be comfortable without it.
  • Inspect between the the mattress and the box spring. It is the most likely culprit for bugs. You won’t usually find live bugs, but you’ll want to see if there are fecal stains on the mattress. They look like small dots from a pencil or pen. When bugs process your blood, they leave small black feces out on the mattress.

For more information on how to check for bed bugs, check out:

Using the room

Don’t spread stuff all over the room. Keep stuff consolidated and away from prone areas (bed, bed linens, luggage racks).
The best place to keep your stuff is in the bathroom. The tile is the least friendly environment for the little critters.

Packing up

Don’t throw everything in your luggage. Keep used clothing in a sealed plastic bag as you use it. Alternatively you can sterilize it when you get home.
Keep items likely to be infected (or not infected) in plastic. The key thing is to limit exposure to the little critters.

Arriving home

Don’t toss your belongings all over the house.
Launder everything you can immediately in the highest temperature washer/dryer settings the fabric can tolerate. I just choose motorcycle clothes that can be washed together in one load. Deposit your belongings in the wash right away. Wipe anything else down that you think may be contaminated down with rubbing alcohol. If you kept stuff away from the bed, contamination risk is pretty small. Bugs require a feeding to lay eggs. Rubbing alcohol will kill bugs, but not eggs. Bed Bugs require a feeding to lay eggs. You would have to find a bug that has fed recently and has been fertilized to have to get eggs in your luggage.

If bumps arise….

Don’t freak out and start applying chemicals.
Bedbugs are crafty creatures. They tend to come out between 3am and 6am and detect human presence by CO2 emissions and body heat. When they bite they apply a small amount of saliva to numb the hosts skin. It is rare that the host feels them crawling or biting. Bites can take 10-14 days to show. Initial bites don’t mean you have bed bugs at home, but they do dictate it time to start looking for them.

..and you find bugs at home

Don’t assume bites mean you have bugs in your home.

Take these key points into consideration

  • Schedule an inspection with a bed bug dog. Dogs can sense bed bugs with an astonishing degree of accuracy. Bed bugs have a distinct odor that dogs can track down to just a few bugs.
  • Bed bugs have a distinct path of reproduction. Bugs need to feed off you and get fertilized to lay eggs. When a male bed bug mates with a female, he forces his sex organ through the skin of the female. The female then runs to prevent being literally f*cked to death with stab wounds. This means they spread quickly.
  • Stay sleeping in your bed. Since bed bugs track humans by heat and CO2 they will follow the host (you) from the bedroom to the sofa. Then you will have bugs in both places.

If you do have bugs confirmed by a dog, fecal stains, or seeing bugs themselves, call a professional. These bastards are smart and you need someone who is smart to fight them. Your options are:

  • Heat – Heating your house to 150 deg F for 5 hours will kill them all off
  • Vikane – The termite gas also works on bed bugs. ETA is 2-3 days.
  • Chemicals – Professional chemical treatment takes anywhere from 21-30 days

There is a very real possibility to make the problem much worse if you treat them yourself.

The worst part of it wasn’t the bites. Sure, they itched and that was bothersome, but the creams to reduce itching really helped. The worst part was really psychological. For me, it it definitely turned into a me versus them battle at home. I never really knew if they were gone. The only real test is to wait 60 days with no bites. I had to have heat treatment done twice and even then you can only be so sure. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would jump out of bed thinking that bugs were crawling on me. Truth of the matter is they were not, but it took a number of months for the psychological effects to ease. In my research of other people dealing with the same issue I found that my experience is fairly common.

While hot shower is nice, I think I’ll try camping my next ride. 🙂

UPDATE: I did stay in a motel my next ride. I didn’t sleep well the entire time I was there. :-(. Camping it is.


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One response to “Bed Bugs: Motorcyclists aren’t exempt”

  1. Jules Pearce Avatar

    I found a bed bug on me at a motel in Mariposa when we were in the USA in 2010. I took a macro photo to prove it!

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