Staying in a Utah County hotel or motel is proving to be a real nightmare for some visitors.
There were 17 bed bug complaints to the Utah County Health Department about Utah County hotels and motels from March 10, 2016 to Aug. 10, 2017, according to records obtained by the Daily Herald through a public information request. More than half of the complaints were for the same business.
During that time, there were 11 complaints about the Executive Inn in Provo, two complaints for the Provo Travelers Inn, one complaint for the Amenity Inn in Provo, one for the Passport Inn & Suites in Provo, one for the Best Western Mountain View Inn in Springville and one complaint for the L & L Motel in Orem.
The majority of the complaints mention bedbugs and six include evidence of bedbugs in a room. Five of those were at the Executive Inn and the other one was for the Best Western Mountain View Inn.
Not all of the complaints include an in-person inspection of the room the complaint is about.
The most recent complaint is from early August and live bedbugs were last found by an inspector on May 3 at the Executive Inn.
Brian Nielson, an environmental health scientist with the Utah County Health Department, said people will call, send in a web comment or will walk in to show him the bites on their bodies from bedbugs. He’ll then do a site visit as soon as possible after receiving a complaint. If he can’t make it to a hotel in person, he calls the business to make them aware of the complaint.
He’s seen a rise in the bedbug problem over the past several years.
“The phone has been ringing more in the last three years than it has over the last 10, for sure,” Nielson said.
A lot of those calls have been about people who have bedbugs in their home, or know someone who does, and is inquiring about how to get rid of them. Often, the call is for an elderly neighbor who doesn’t have the financial means to hire a pest control company to get rid of the infestation.
He doesn’t know what’s causing the local spike.
A complaint about the Executive Inn from last October mentions a woman who filed the complaint after being bitten by bedbugs following check-in. On Oct. 13, 2016, the manager told Nielson the room didn’t have bedbugs and the issue was taken care of. Nielson said the room shouldn’t be rented until it was cleared of bedbugs. Four days later, he checked the room and found live bedbugs behind a headboard. He wrote an order requiring the Executive Inn to close the room until Nielson could confirm they’re gone. Eleven days later on Oct. 24, he gave the OK for the room to be used again.
Other complaints filed with the Utah County Health Department about the Executive Inn mention customers finding animal feces on the floor, spotting mold and being put in non-functioning rooms.
The motel has 2.2 stars on Google reviews and has low reviews on other review sites. The reviews frequently mention visitors encountering bedbugs.
Nielson said businesses are cooperative with the complains and the biggest problem is how rooms are designed.
“We love carpet, and bedbugs hide in carpet,” he said.
He works with the hotels and motels to remodel rooms in order to eliminate places where bed bugs can hide and reproduce.
So far, no one has been fined. Instead, he focuses on education.
“We don’t want to take action on someone who is making steps,” Nielson said. “Every time I’ve done this complaint, they are taking measures to deal with the bedbugs. It’s the design of the room themselves that’s a thing to fix.”
A man who identified himself as the owner of the Executive Inn, but declined to be named, said he’s done everything the Health Department has told him to do to eradicate the recurring problem. He’s taken steps such as changing box springs to put in metal frames and has taken out carpet.
After the bugs are found, he said the motel uses heat treatment and pest control companies to get rid of the bedbugs.
He said the guests, who sometimes move from hotel to hotel, bring in the pests.
“The bed bug is not the product of the hotel,” the owner said. “It is coming with the people.”
Nielson’s current guidance includes closing a room until it’s been treated by a pest control company. He said a new rule will be approved by the state in November to clarify the requirement to close rooms. It will require a pest control company to treat an infected room.
During an inspection of a potentially infected room, Nielson will find bedbugs on the back of headboards, behind night stands or on the back of picture frames. Box springs are harder to inspect, but are a common hiding place for the bugs, as is the carpet that could be on a mattress platform.
Sprays don’t kill all of the bugs and doesn’t kill eggs. Missing just one pregnant female bedbug or some eggs means the bugs will return.
The bugs are tiny and eggs are about the size of a pinhead. To check a room for bugs, look for excrement or see if bugs are darting away from the light.
If someone encounters bedbugs in a hotel, Nielson suggests taking actions to make sure the bugs don’t spread to another location. People should bag up their belongings, change into clothing untouched by bedbugs and should wash their clothes. Nonwashable items can be frozen for a week to get rid of bedbugs and larger items, like a suitcase, can be steamed or bagged up and put in a car on a hot day.