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Bedbugs are found in hotels but the vast majority of them are in apartments


We're approaching the height of the summer travel season.


Millions of people attend weddings, as I did last weekend, or see their families or head on vacation. And some who rest their heads on a strange pillow this summer will find they are not alone.


SARAH LUEPKER: I recently was at a bachelorette party with one of my friends in Colorado and got absolutely wrecked by bedbugs in the Airbnb.

INSKEEP: Sarah Luepker made a social media video of her experience. Her bug bites have now healed, and the swelling is gone, but the experience has stayed with her.


LUEPKER: It is lastingly, psychologically horrific. Like, in the night, anytime I feel itchy at all, I wake up.

FADEL: And that cringey feeling isn't uncommon.

DINI MILLER: There's so much fear associated with bedbug encounters.

INSKEEP: Dini Miller is an entomology professor at Virginia Tech who originally studied cockroaches and then termites.

MILLER: But very shortly thereafter, bedbugs just took over the world.

FADEL: Miller says if you're worried about bedbugs when traveling, you can peel back the sheets and covers.

MILLER: Since the bedbugs feed on blood, they have to poop a lot, and they leave these little tiny black spots all over the place.

FADEL: Now, if you forget to check, Miller says you're probably OK. She says the vast majority of bedbugs are in apartments.

MILLER: Getting rid of every last bedbug can be very expensive and tedious, and therefore, the bedbug populations can exist for a long time in people's homes and apartments.

INSKEEP: Now, when Miller is crawling around bedbug-infested homes for her job, she wears smooth pants and brings an extra-sticky lint roller.

MILLER: Really, in my experience - you know, I've been working on bedbugs for 17 years. I've never once brought them home, except on purpose from the lab because I was feeding them on myself.

FADEL: Excuse me?

MILLER: Yeah. If we're doing research studies, we need to have fed bedbugs. Myself and my other lab members often take the jar, then we turn it upside down on our arms so the bedbugs come down and start feeding on us.

FADEL: Better her than me. This conversation is all making me itchy. For the rest of us, remember the old rhyme - nighty night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOLOTO'S "FOX TALES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.