Linda Profaizer

Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past-president of ARVC, writes a column for Woodall’s Campground Management. She can be contacted at [email protected] Having stepped away from her association duties at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns.

Summertime brings to mind lots of stories and experiences of encounters of the “bug kind.” One of my most memorable was an experience in a Texas park with palmetto bugs, la cucarachas, cockroaches . . . whatever their name, I call them disgusting. Cockroaches are just plain gross!

I arrived at the park late at night so the park owner kindly left keys to the cabin on the front porch. I entered the cabin and turned on the light dragging my always heavy suitcase behind me. I lugged it onto the sofa and noted that all the blinds were open, so reached for the closest one to shut and in addition to the blind cord; I closed my hand around a cockroach! I didn’t open my suitcase and instead just took a look around. The walls appeared to be moving – only it wasn’t the walls; it was cockroaches – literally hundreds of them. There’s something unnerving about turning on a light in the middle of the night, and seeing dozens of creepy looking insects running for cover.

I looked for a weapon, which turned out to be a cookie sheet, but there was no way I could make a dent in their numbers. I established a cockroach cemetery in one corner of the room. Since it was so late at night, I couldn’t call the owner, so sat on a stool in the kitchen watching the parade.

The next morning, the park owner was kind enough to drop off a cup of coffee and I mentioned to her the issue with the cockroaches and pointed to the floor where they were doing their early morning exercises. She walked in, picked one up, threw it outside and said that they were a common occurrence in Texas. That was it! While I agree with that comment, the number of critters in the cabin was not normal and her blasé attitude was not what I expected. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but suffice to say that I was then looking for anything and everything wrong with the park. That experience colored my expectations for the rest of the stay.

I’ve read numerous comments over the years from campers relating their experiences with a variety of bugs. Some of them seemed surprised that any bugs were present. Others are legitimate concerns. One camper related his experience in a rental cabin: “Ten bugs in one night; three wasps, one giant ant with wings, four beetle type bugs, and two spiders and I suspect bed bugs! I collected all of them in a cup, took pictures and showed the person at the registration desk. Would you believe they said I must have brought them in! That’s the last time my family will stay in that park.”

We all know that bugs are going to be naturally present in our parks, but it is also important to be proactive about mitigating the issue. With the proliferation of cabins being added to our parks, there is more opportunity for unwanted critters. One of the primary concerns is bed bugs and hopefully your cleaning routine includes looking for these critters every time the cabins are cleaned. Your next guest could very well bring them into your facilities.

How to Check For Bedbugs

When we think of checking for bedbugs, we most often think of checking the bed. But that’s not all that has to be checked. The National Pest Management Association has an entire manual on Best Management Practices for Bed Bugs. Their recommendations to their members states that “An initial bed bug inspection should include at a minimum:

  • Carefully inspecting sheets, pillowcases, and other bed linens, mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards by checking all seams, piping, straps, and other hiding places for live bed bugs, cast skins, fecal staining and eggs.
  • Looking for evidence of bed bugs in cracks, crevices, and other typical bed bug hiding places near the beds, and of course, areas where people have reported seeing bed bugs or being bitten.”

In addition to the tasks above, inspections may include, depending on the site, and if necessary, such things as:

  • Inspecting inside and underneath furniture, including the removal of drawers from dressers and other items.
  • Inspecting behind pictures, wall hangings, and curtains.
  • Lifting the edge of carpeting and inspecting behind baseboards in suspected areas.
  • Inspecting for bed bugs on, under, and inside upholstered furniture.
  • Bed bug inspection should include areas outside of sleeping areas where people spend time resting.

If you do have an infestation, you may need to expand your inspections to other areas such as the rec room or hall, lounge areas, storage areas and laundry room.

Training yourself and your cleaning staff on what to look for and how to inspect is really important. Bed bugs hide during daylight hours, and they’re quite small, so finding them takes a little work. Carrying a powerful flashlight can be a big help, since bed bugs will likely be hiding in the darkest crevices of the room.

Adult bed bugs are oval in shape, and brown or reddish in color. Immature bed bugs tend to be lighter in color. Bed bugs usually live in groups, so where there’s one, there’s likely to be many. Other signs that bed bugs are present include tiny black spots on linens or furniture (excrement) and piles of light brown skin casings.

When you are doing your inspection start with the bed (after all, they are called bed bugs). If linens are provided, check the linens thoroughly for any signs of bed bugs, especially around any seams, piping, or ruffles. If there is a dust ruffle on the bed, look at it as well. Inspect the mattress, again looking carefully at any seams or piping.

Continue your inspection by examining any furniture or other items near the bed. The majority of bed bugs live within close proximity to the bed. If you are able, inspect behind the headboard. Also, look behind picture frames and mirrors. Pull out any drawers, using your flashlight to look inside the dresser and nightstand. Hopefully, you are not going to find anything, but if you do, you can be proactive to get rid of them before they become an issue with your guests.

Of course there are more than bed bugs to deal with in your park. Bees, wasps, mosquitoes, ants and spiders are all common pests. If needed, do regular spraying or hire a pest management company to deal with specific issues.

And if you ever happen to meet Vic Nolting, vice chairman of Leisure Systems, franchisers of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts and president of Coney Island Amusement Park, ask him how “cracked corn” works for getting rid of a bird infestation. It’s a great story!