The Boston Globe has a new article about bed bugs, mainly focusing on how ten or so hotels in Boston are employing a bed bug dog to do regular walkthroughs.
In the 3 1/2 years it’s been open, Jurys Boston Hotel has never found bedbugs on its premises, nor have its guests complained about being bitten. Still, the luxury hotel in the Back Bay began dispatching a bedbug-sniffing dog to each of its 225 guest rooms last year. And when the canine detective barked, after detecting the suspicious scent of the itch-inducing insects or their eggs, the hotel fumigated two rooms and burned the mattresses.
“At the first sign or suggestion of a problem, our reaction would be to treat the room with chemicals, no questions asked,” said general manager Stephen Johnston, who calls the dog in every three months.
Every three months hardly means you won’t be bitten by bed bugs in the hotel, but it is definitely a start, and would prompt many of us to choose such a hotel over another that has no strategies to detect or prevent bed bugs.
Jurys isn’t the only hotel to take a proactive approach to bedbugs. The Omni Parker House brings in an insect-sniffing mixed Labrador from Advanced K9 Detectives LLC, the same Milford, Conn., firm that Jurys and about 10 other Boston-area hotels use. The Omni’s general manager, John Murtha, is also considering buying special encasements for mattresses and box springs to prevent bedbugs from building homes on them.
My advice to hotels is not to think too long about mattress encasements–just get them. They won’t prevent customers from being bitten but make it hard for bed bugs to hide on the actual mattress, and can mean you don’t have to destroy mattresses or spend considerable time and expense sanitizing them if an infestation does occur.
In addition, I hope all hotels and motels will educate staff about how to prevent spreading and detect bed bug infestations. Stephen Doggett’s article for Executive Housekeeping (an Australian hotel industry journal) is a must-read for industry professionals. Click here to load a PDF.
How many hotels are infested?
Judith Black, technical director at Steritech Group Inc., a pest-control company that serves the hospitality industry, found only 0.6 percent of the almost 76,000 rooms the company inspected between November 2002 and April 2006 needed to be treated for bedbugs, but those infestations were spread across 24.4 percent of the nearly 700 US hotels it studied.
I’d take those numbers with a grain of salt, and consider them in juxtaposition with another statistic the article offered:
Scientists are trying to find ways to fight the bugs, too. The Entomological Society of America’s annual conference, held in San Diego last month, featured three half-day symposiums on the insects, with nearly 30 scientific presentations on topics like “How bedbugs survive long xeric periods between blood meals” and “The effect of sex-ratio on dispersal and aggregation behavior of the common bedbug.”
Three years ago, no one at the conference presented any bedbug research.
So in 2004, bed bugs were not considered important enough to merit one single panel presentation at the ESA annual conference, and this year the topic merited thirty presentations. To me, this obvious growth in bed bugs signals that perhaps Steritech’s data from 2002-6 is largely outdated. (Steritech’s data also seems to be based on hotels who hired their services, in which case it is already biased towards hotels which are more proactive against bed bugs.)
Assume many more than 24% of hotels are affected, but try to keep this in perspective: remember that “a hotel with bed bugs” may have them in only a room or two.
In my opinion, with the requisite precautions, it is still safe to travel. Click here to download the CBC video for a good lesson in searching a room for bed bugs, and read our travel FAQs. Seeing the world is too good to miss. Let’s hope all hotels, motels, and hostels soon see having a sound bed bug protocol as being as important as changing the sheets.
Read the rest of the Boston Globe article here.