The Star-Phoenix reports today that one attender of a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan professional conference, held at the Hilton Garden Inn, claims to have found bed bugs, and bed bug feces in her hotel bed. Two others had serious bites. But nothing here is conclusive as far as the hotel is concerned.
A teacher (Sonya Johnstone) who was attending the conference saw what she thought were bed bugs in her bed. The next day, she met up with a colleague who had broken out in red welts.
The two compared notes about their rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn.
“I told her about my room, so we checked hers and sure enough, when we flipped up the mattress by the headboard, we saw a bunch scurry off,” Johnstone said, describing the area as sprinkled with black pepper-like feces.
“When you look at the granite counters in the hotel and how nice the room is, you would never expect to find these things here.”
And then a third conference-goer, staying 7 floors away in the same hotel, had what sound like serious bite reactions.
The women were on the hotel’s fourth floor, but a colleague from the 11th floor showed off tell-tale bite marks “all over his body — across his stomach and back,” Johnstone said.
The Hilton’s Saskatoon general manager Lynn Flury said there has been no confirmation the sightings by guests are indeed bed bugs.
“In one room there is something, but we are still waiting on a report,” she said, adding nothing was found in the complainants’ rooms. “It could be little black beetles that hide under flower pots have found their way in.”
Bed bugs also closely resemble wood ticks, she noted.
Little black beetles? I am sorry.
As far as I know, neither beetles nor wood ticks hang out in groups under mattresses.
“It’s a tricky thing. If it is (bed bugs) we will take aggressive steps, even if it means shutting down an entire floor to do it,” she said. “We take this very seriously.”
The hotel has a regular intensive cleaning process that involves using a black light to search for things not visible to the naked eye. At the same time, Flury said, “we don’t live in a perfect world.”
I know that the customer is not always right (truly, they’re not!) but when three hotel guests present with stories of bed bugs in the bed, and obvious welts, I would think the manager would spring into action.
And Sonya Johnstone knows a bit about bed bugs. In fact,
Johnstone is certain the crawlies were bed bugs. She recently watched a CBC Marketplace segment on the insect, she said, in which she learned to identify the flat, brownish-red bugs and where to find them.
Yes, I can hear the hotel manager’s eyes rolling into the top of her head, “You saw a news report, huh?”
It’s true that a little knowledge is often enough to make one look for bed bugs, but not always enough to help them identify them properly. But actually, the CBC video is highly educational. It’s also in-depth and 15 minutes long: there’s a lot of footage.
The more people see bed bugs of all life stages, in videos and in photos, the more apt they are to recognize them.
My sister-in-law found a bed bug in a store changing room after seeing the in-depth bed bug segment on Dateline. If you truly know what they look like, they don’t look like ticks, or flower pot beetles. But the key is, you must know what they look like.
My advice to you, dear reader, is to circulate that CBC video. Watch it. Get your non-bedbugged friends to watch it, especially before they travel. Get your teenager going to camp or your kid going off to college to watch it. It shows how to inspect a bed for bed bugs. And it shows the effects of bed bugs, which will help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. The aim is not to freak people out, but to educate. It used to be normal to check for bed bugs when sleeping away from home. Unfortunately, it should be the norm now too.
I firmly believe that if Sonya Johnstone, and you and I can learn to identify bed bugs from photos and video, and learn how to find them in a hotel room, then so can hotel staff, restaurant staff, day care staff, people working in travel, and so on. Everyone can and should learn about bed bugs and the signs of bed bugs. And yes, it is true you can be bitten and still have lots of trouble finding bed bugs. But in most cases where people suffer significant bites in hotel rooms, they later inspect and find bed bugs or clear signs.
And hotel chains, take note: customers are not idiots. Yes, sometimes people think they have bed bugs and don’t. But three guests, in three rooms, and on two widely separated floors, with similar stories? This is something to take seriously. I hope hotels realize that members of professional organizations do have sway over where their conferences are held.