by Noel McCarthy, Sterifab Staff Writer
One of the least pleasant part of being an Airbnb operator is deciding how to handle pest control issues. Unfortunately, all sorts of unwelcome bugs – fleas, mites, bed bugs, cockroaches, ticks, and lice, to name but a few – will invariably make their way into your rental. However, before you blame yourself, keep in mind that these pesky interlopers are probably there thanks to the very thing you want most of all: paying guests.
And it has nothing to do with the cleanliness or sanitation practices of the guests. Bugs are highly adept at making their way in via suitcases, backpacks, garment bags, etc. You name it, and a bug can use it as transportation. Bed bugs, for instance, are among the best ‘hitchhikers’ in the insect world. And what’s worse, you won’t even notice them! Ditto for the others too!
Keeping Bugs Out of your Airbnb
Even if guests do bring pests into your Airbnb, you can help prevent infestations by not creating the conditions that attract bugs in the first place!
Prime among those attractions is food. So if food is available in any shape or form, insects will invariably find it. And it doesn’t have to be much: a few crumbs, a speck of marmalade, a fragment of fruit, and so on, can provide a lot of bugs with quite a feast. True, pests like bed bugs and fleas are parasites, mostly depending on humans as their food source, but cockroaches, flies, and larger pests such as rats and mice will hang around if food is easily available.
Here are a few pointers on keeping those bugs away:
- Encourage your guests to clean up immediately after a meal. That means not piling dirty dishes in the sink and wiping off food preparation areas in the kitchen. And don’t forget to brush off the dining table.
- Ask your guests to store any food they bring into the Airbnb in airtight storage containers and place all waste items into a sealable garbage bag.
For your part, you should make sure that your Airbnb can keep the bugs out. So, protect your property by:
- Seal up any gaps around doors and windows.
- Make sure that window screens have no holes.
- Properly seal pipe and cable entry points.
- Keep roofs and gutters in good condition.
Staying Alert for Signs of Pests
You may not want to ask your guests to be alert for bugs. It could send the wrong message. But if you employ staff – even a single person – you can train them to spot the tell-tale signs that all pests leave behind. In fact, you could make bug surveillance part of the daily cleaning routine.
Also, if the building in which your Airbnb is located has a building maintenance staff, you could ask them to:
- Make sure that possible points of entry for pests are properly sealed.
- Be alert for signs that pests have ‘infiltrated’ your Airbnb, in particular
- bees, wasps, mice, rats, cockroaches, and pigeons.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer a pest infestation, you should immediately take the guests out of the room, or rooms, affected and close it down until all the pests in question have been eradicated. If it so happens that bed bugs are your problem, you may need to close down the entire Airbnb. There’s every chance that these devious pests have made their way into other parts of your property.
How you deal with your clients is another matter, which we’ll get to shortly. In any event, you should always have a pest management plan in place should this ever arise.
Create a Workable Pest Control Strategy
This is not as forbidding as it sounds, provided you take a tried-and-true approach to potential pest problems. If you adopt what the pest management industry calls an IPM – or integrated pest management – approach you to benefit from using a concept that has been used successfully in a number of sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing, food preparation, and others.
“Combination of common sense and scientific principles. It's a way of thinking
about pest management that values:
- Using knowledge about the pest's habits, life cycle, needs, and dislikes.
- Using the least toxic methods first, up to and including pesticides.
- Monitoring the pest's activity and adjusting methods over time.
- Tolerating harmless pests.
- Setting a threshold to decide when it's time to act.”
Not only does IPM keep pests under control more easily, but it also tends to use toxic chemicals only when absolutely necessary. An IPM is made up of three basic parts. It requires that you:
1. Decide exactly what degree of pest infestation compels you to act. Being an
Airbnb operator that may well demand zero tolerance on your part.
2. Again, this demands that you both scrutinize, and identify, every pest, you or
your staff, encounter.
Deny any and all pests access to any sources of shelter, food, or water!
How to Really Get Rid of Those Troublesome Pests!
Whatever skepticism you might have about professional management pest control companies, they can provide invaluable help when it comes to controlling any kind of pest infestation problem.
In addition to helping you create an effective IPM strategy, a licensed PMP (pest management professional) can help you to:
1. Find an efficient and cost-effective way to limit the effect of actions that are
largely reactive, rather than proactive.
2. Devise real solutions that will prevent pests from invading your Airbnb – and
eradicate them safely and legally.
3. Deliver the professional know-how needed to effectively handle any insect
infestation, supported by professional, licensed entomologists/zoologists.
4. Provide accurate records of your pest control measures, should local, state,
or federal agencies require them.
Of course, you can always go the DIY route, but it’s not advisable. A qualified PMP will not only identify the source of your pest troubles but also uncover other problems you weren’t aware of. The presence of one bug is often a sign that others are also present, and a reliable PMP will quickly identify all the pest issues you may be facing.
What About Your Customers?
However you formulate your pest control plan, you should dedicate some portion of it to managing customer complaints – quickly and with tact and empathy. Research has shown that customers are usually less upset by an encounter with bugs than if their entreaties are ignored or downplayed.
Keep in mind that in this age of instant communication and social media, your reputation can be seriously damaged very quickly. As Ben Franklin so aptly put it “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only a bad one to lose it.”
Noel McCarthy has worked as a writer and editor throughout his career. A former director for Thomson Reuters, Noel also worked for PwC for 17 years. A staff writer for Sterifab
, Noel's expertise in bed bugs is a newfound hobby of sorts. He has enjoyed learning about these pesky little pests, and their entourage of friends including lice, mites and more.