How to get rid of unwanted guests in hotels

Entering hotel roomOne of the last things a hotel or restaurant needs is negative publicity in the media. Stories can appear in the local news because food hygiene inspectors found signs of mice or cockroaches in the kitchen, or disgruntled guests can post comments in Tripadvisor about getting bitten by bed bugs or fleas.

Trying to save money on pest control measures can escalate costs to the business in the longer term, through:

  • loss of reputation;
  • higher costs of treatment to eradicate pests;
  • loss of business;
  • replacement of damaged stock — whether food or other items such as bedding;
  • prosecution for breaching food safety regulations and even closure of food operation.

The best way to try and minimise the risk, is to have a robust policy in place to prevent them happening in the first place:

  • maintain your premises to prevent pests entering through weak spots;
  • train your staff to be aware of and proactively look out for signs of pests at all times.
  • implement suitable hygiene and food handling practices that prevent pests getting access to food sources;

This will mean any problems can be dealt with as soon as possible and the business will save on costs in the long run.

Top pests in hotels and restaurants

So what specific measures can a hotel and restaurant owner do to keep these unwanted guests away? Here is a list of straightforward measures you can take yourself to help deal with the main pests that are likely to cause problems.

Bed BugBed Bugs

It is virtually impossible to prevent bedbugs from getting into hotels because they are mainly brought in by guests via their luggage or clothing. They can, however, also be brought in by staff and contractors, and in laundry, electrical devices (attracted by the warmth) and used furniture.

Signs of bed bugs

  • Bed bug bites: they tend to occur in a line on exposed bare skin, especially legs, arms, face, neck, hands. The bites tend to come in threes, which are sometimes called ‘breakfast, lunch and dinner’.
  • guests complaining of bites: the best way to verify bites are from bed bugs is to look for other signs of the insects in the rooms. Bed bugs need their host to keep still for a while so they can climb onto some exposed skin, feed and then go back to their shelter.
  • small patches of dark/black stains on a mattress and surrounding areas, which are the bed bug droppings;
  • small red or rusty spots of dried blood on bedding caused by a hotel guest inadvertently squashing a bed bug while sleeping;
  • live bed bugs: adults are easily visible at 4-5mm long; eggs are 1mm and whitish; juveniles are around 1.5mm and straw coloured on hatching;
  • shed skins of bed bugs: juvenile bed bugs shed skins at each of the five stages of growth, so finding shed skins means there is a growing population; they will be found mainly where the bed bugs congregate or feed;
  • sickly sweet smell in a room: this is detectable in heavy infestations; dogs can be trained to recognise the smell and sniff out bed bug locations.

Locating bed bugs

Bed bugs can hide and breed in small spaces, but will most likely be near a suitable food source, which means a sleeping body in a bedroom. There are numerous places in the room structure and furnishings where there are small spaces suitable for bedbugs to hide.

Hotel staff should make a systematic and thorough search to locate all the potential bed bug hiding places. Here is a list of places to inspect:

Room structure

  • Behind skirting boards, especially near beds: top, cracks, crevices, underneath;
  • Between timber floorboards;
  • In cracked or broken plaster;
  • Behind peeling wallpaper or paint;
  • Inside electrical sockets and fittings.

The beds

  • In/ on sheets and blankets;
  • Piping along the mattress edge;
  • Sides, top and bottom of mattress and along stitch lines/ seams;
  • Labels, tags, buttons and other decorations on the mattress;
  • Bed base edges and along stitch lines;
  • Inside the bed frame;
  • Remove the dust cover from the frame and look under any folds and where the fabric fastens to the frame;
  • Depressions, countersunk screws and under staples;
  • Joints, cracks and corners of the frame;
  • Legs, casters, end caps, joints, welds, holes, seams, cracks.

Furniture and fittings

  • Carpets and underlay;
  • Around and inside frames of pictures and paintings;
  • In cupboards, wardrobes, bedside cabinets, tables, looking in joints, cracks and corners;
  • Sets of drawers and bedside tables: search the exterior top, sides, and bottom;
  • Remove drawers and inspect top, sides and bottom, in cracks and crevices, imperfections, joints, screws and corners.
  • Move furniture away from the wall, inspect the back;
  • On curtains;
  • In clothes, toys and other personal belongings;
  • For upholstered furniture, do the same detailed search as the bed, paying special attention to zips; skirting, fabric seams, and folds and crevices under cushions;

Bed bug elimination

Vacuum cleaner

Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to suck up visible bed bugs and catch fine particles that are allergenic. Dispose of the bag carefully to prevent the bed bugs escaping.


Seal holes and cracks where they could be hiding. Cover mattresses in protective encasement to prevent bed bugs getting in or out. Put infected items such as clothing in sealed plastic bags and remove them from the room for treatment or disposal.

Heat treatment

Bed bugs can be killed by high or very low temperatures. They are killed when their body reaches 55°C and freezing temperatures below -13°C will also kill them, but only after several days.

Whole-room heating will eliminate the bed bugs from all the bedding, furniture, carpets, cracks and crevices, etc, but needs to be done with a professional heat treatment service to ensure every part of the room reaches the critical temperature.


Careful spraying of a residual insecticide in the right places after other control measures have been used will help prevent a bed bug infestation returning.

Indiscriminate spraying of household pesticides on visible bed bugs will not eliminate all of them and may end up affecting guests and staff. Targeted bed bug treatment really needs to be done by a professional pest controller.

Fly in a soupFlies

There are many species of flies that can carry numerous diseases into areas handling and serving food, including: fruit flies, drain flies, house flies, blow flies and flesh flies.

Flies are attracted to rotting food, faeces, drains, dead animals where they pick up a wide range of disease-causing microbes and can later deposit them on surfaces and food in kitchens and restaurants.

Common diseases that can be carried by flies include Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and various parasitic worms — all of which are unpleasant experiences for guests or staff.

Fly control

The most important way of preventing flies from contaminating food is cleanliness:

  • Food preparation and serving areas: keep them clean and free of food deposits, grease and spills, including equipment, surfaces, floors, walls, cupboards and shelves. Cracks and crevices can accumulate tiny amounts of food, but enough to attract and feed a fly or two.
  • Supplies: make sure food supplies are packaged and stored properly, and fresh foods are of good quality with no rotten parts that could attract flies.
  • Rubbish:
    • clear waste away from food preparation and storage areas promptly.
    • store waste in suitable containers that shut properly with a tight seal.
    • keep waste containers and the surrounding areas clean so that rotting food deposits do not build up and attract flies and other pests.
  • Drains: keep drains free of organic matter and clean regularly to prevent biofilms that are breeding grounds for drain flies.

Put up barriers to prevent flies from getting inside you property:

  • put screens on doors and windows;
  • keep doors and windows shut when not in use;
  • maintain the building to prevent gaps appearing that could allow entry.

Eliminate flies

  • Use UV light traps to catch flies hygienically in food preparation and serving areas. Find out how Lumnia LED fly control units prevent fly debris from contaminating food, whilst using 61% less energy on average than conventional fly killer units.
  • The Rentokil Fly Box is a unique fly control unit designed specifically to effectively control fly numbers around external refuse areas of a premises, before they enter and potentially spread disease.
  • As a last resort, use insecticides, but these must be suitable for use near food and applied correctly by trained personnel.

Rats and mice

Rats and mice are the pests that are likely to create the most alarm among guests if encountered in your hotel or restaurant, and show you have a serious food hygiene problem!

They can increase in numbers rapidly once they have found a food source so it is important to control them effectively as soon as possible to minimise costs of control.

There are many reasons to exterminate rats and mice from your property, including:

  • Diseases: Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, Toxoplasmosis, Lyme disease, rat-bite fever, to name a few;
  • Parasites: ticks, fleas, lice and mites, which carry their own range of diseases;
  • Damage to food: contamination of food and packaging making it unfit for consumption and causing loss of stock;
  • Damage to buildings and fixtures by gnawing, including electrical cables;

Apart from seeing a live animal scurrying around or dead animals, there are several signs of rodents to look out for:

  • dirty smudge marks along runs caused by their oily fur on walls and along pipes and wiring;
  • droppings;
  • noises: squeaks, gnawing sounds, scurrying sounds;
  • gnawing around holes, on electrical wiring, food and packaging;
  • tracks in dust or powder put down to indicate their presence;
  • urine stains are left along trails by both rats and mice and can be detected using UV light;

Rat and mice control

The basic means of control is preventing rats and mice from having access to food, water and shelter on your property.

Remove or block places where rats and mice could shelter in and around buildings. A building structure can offer many places of access, such as doorways, windows, screens, pipes, vents, cracks, drains and holes. These need to be maintained or altered to remove any gaps that are large enough for rats and mice to run or squeeze through.

Trapping and eliminating

The use of traps and poison needs professional expertise to conform to legislation, including food safety laws and regulations, health and safety, environmental and wildlife laws. When a business involves food there are detailed requirements for documenting the pest control measures that have been carried out, such as:

  • maintaining maps of all bait stations and traps;
  • records of sightings;
  • records of staff training of staff;
  • monitoring activities.

It is more effective to use a proactive integrated pest management system to protect your business from a rodent infestation than relying on reactive measures once you discover an issue. Rentokil PestConnect Service is an online connected system, providing continuous 24/7 monitoring, rapid response and protection against rodent pests. This connected solution actively detects, captures and eliminates rodent pests, using innovative and highly effective traps, that once activated immediately alerts a Rentokil technician via text to contact the customer and attend the premises.


cockroach in plugholeCockroaches scurrying around restaurants and kitchens are a sure sign that food hygiene practices are not up to scratch. They can feed on a wide range of foods and even organic matter such as cardboard. Because of their size they only need small amounts of food such as crumbs and spills to feed on.

There are thousands of cockroach species worldwide but only a few are likely to be pests in hotels and restaurants:

  • German cockroach (Blatella germanica): the adult is 12-15 mm long and light brown. It is the most common species infesting food businesses and buildings worldwide.
  • American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana): the adult is 35-40 mm long and reddish brown. It prefers warmer climates and warm, humid places such as drains, storage rooms and waste storage areas.
  • Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis): the adult is 20-25 mm long with a dark brown or black body. It prefers cool, damp places such as basements, drains, and storage rooms.

Cockroaches have a number of nasty habits:

  • they feed on faeces and other organic matter in sewers, faeces from rodents and birds, garbage and animal carcasses, picking up, like flies, a large range of disease-causing microbes internally and externally;
  • they defecate and excrete saliva wherever they crawl, contaminating food and surfaces and leaving stains and a foul odour;
  • cast skins and egg cases also contaminate food and packaging;
  • droppings and shed skins contain allergens that cause asthma.

Cockroaches, like flies, only need small quantities of food to live on, such as from spills and accumulated residues in dirty kitchens and drains. They have biting mouth parts so can also eat through some types of packaging such as paper and cardboard.

The same good sanitation practices as described for flies will work for cockroaches. In addition, remove food from paper and cardboard containers, if possible, and store it in hard plastic or metal.

A number of pesticide treatments are available to kill cockroaches, including sprays, dusts and bait, but you will need to comply with food safety regulations to use them near food handling areas.

Stored product insects

Stored product insects (SPIs) is a catch-all term that includes a large range of insects and mites (which are actually arachnids) that infest dry food ingredients and processed products. The food types include flour and grains, dried beans and peas, coffee and cocoa beans, dried fruit and vegetables, nuts, confectionery and pasta.

Some of the insects and mites that can infest stored food are:

  • Moths
    • Warehouse moth (Ephestia elutella): larva 10-15 mm
    • Tropical warehouse moth (Ephestia cautella): larva 12-14 mm
    • Mill moth (Ephestia kuehniella): larva 15-20 mm
  • Beetles
    • Copra beetle (Necrobia rufipes): 4-6 mm
    • Biscuit beetle (Stegobium paniceum): 2-3 mm
    • Confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum): 3-4.5 mm
    • Merchant grain beetle (Oryzaephilus mercator): 2.5-3.5 mm
  • Weevils
    • Rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae)
    • Grain weevil (Sitophilus granarius)
  • Mites
    • Cheese mites: Tyrophagus species and Acarus species (some are used intentionally to age certain cheeses).
    • Flour mite (Acarus siro): 5-0.7 mm.

Signs of SPIs in food

SPIs can be detected by inspecting the foods, packages, containers and storage rooms for:

  • larvae, pupae or silken webbing — in food packets, cupboards and around food stores;
  • live or dead insects or mites on food or in food containers;
  • small holes in nuts and grains;
  • insects caught in traps.

Control of SPIs

Due to the size of some of the insects and mites it can be difficult to spot an infestation, but by following some basic practices you can spot an infestation early and prevent further spread:

  • inspect food on delivery for the presence of pests;
  • store food in containers that close tightly;
  • use older stock first;
  • clean food storage and handling areas thoroughly to prevent build-up of food spills and residues;
  • have monitoring procedures to identify signs of infestation;
  • dispose of infested foods.

Keeping the pests away

The key to keeping pests away from your business is training staff and implementing monitoring procedures as part of normal practice. The investment will pay for itself in reducing the costs of controlling infestations, protecting your reputation and maintaining your flow of customers.

However, it is also important to know when to call a professional service to deal with a pest outbreak safely and comply with all the relevant regulations and laws. Contact Rentokil for more  information on the professional pest control solutions for the hospitality industry and staff training such as our myLearning to help protect your business and reputation from pests.

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