Note to Tripadvisor.com: bed bugs can be found in clean hotels too!

by nobugsonme on February 26, 2009 · 7 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, bed bugs in hotels, dorms

I love Tripadvisor.com. I always use it to choose hotels when I travel (and I am not just avoiding those with bed bug reports, either, but also looking for a room that’s convenient, reasonably-priced, and hopefully with a little something extra).

Tripadvisor also knows a thing or two about bed bugs in hotels; last year, they asked their members how many had encountered bed bugs in hotels, and 8% reported that they had. The same survey found 80% of Tripadvisor members surveyed were worried about encountering bed bugs in their travels.  This is good news to us, since it means word is getting out about bed bugs.  People need to be worried before they will take smart steps, like learning to search a hotel room for bed bugs (more on that below).

Today, Tripadvisor posted a list of the “Ten Dirtiest Hotels” in the United States.

I was surprised by the banner, which is a graphic of insects with red stripes scurrying across a bed, under a magnifying glass. The caption quotes “a Tripadvisor member” as saying, “I have 30 bites from bugs in room 319.”

I suspect we know what kinds of bug bites they’re talking about.

However, I am not sure what the pictured insects are (and I am sure some of my readers will tell me!) but they are not bed bugs.

Although it’s primarily a place to post reviews, and the “dirtiest hotels” list is presumably an outcome of user ratings, Tripadvisor could do better in terms of educating its readers about bed bugs and how to search for them.

It may be true that hotels with really obvious, visible bed bug infestations may also be neglecting other aspects of care (such as cleanliness). If you can see bed bugs everywhere, and the problem is not being addressed, it suggests something is going wrong in terms of cleaning, maintenance and general upkeep.

On the other hand, subtle, non-obvious, recently introduced bed bug infestations would not necessarily be seen during a visual inspection.  The room could be carefully cleaned, and still have bed bugs present.

It’s really important to stress that all hotel rooms, not just dirty ones, are susceptible to bed bugs. This is because bed bugs travel on people’s clothing and in their bags and stuff.  And so everyone who stays in hotels (or motels, dorms, hostels, borrowed rooms, and other temporary lodging) should inspect for bed bugs before settling in, no matter how nice or clean the room looks.

This FAQ tells you what you need to know about how to avoid bed bugs when you visit hotels. It includes links to resources which show you how to search for bed bugs.  The New York State Integrated Pest Manegement (at Cornell) provides an excellent printable Travel Card on this topic (click for a PDF) which you can carry with you to hotels to help you remember how to search the room, and what bed bugs look like (note: the same PDF includes cards with general bed bug information, and one for college students).

It’s important that people understand that bed bugs do not have anything to do with a lack of hygiene.  Dirty environments and clutter certainly mask the problem, but do not cause or attract bed bugs to a space.

(Oh, and don’t worry — I promise to post more about the Hearing yesterday, soon.)

Update: thanks to bug_girl and , we can confirm the pictured insect appears to be Graphosoma lineatum, or Striped Stink Bug.

Bug_girl writes in the comments below,

It is indeed the Striped Stink bug.

In fact, as someone pointed out:
“Note that bed bugs are not only in a separate Family, but in a separate infraorder (family Cimicidae [bed bugs] is in the infraorder Cimicomorpha, family Pentatomidae [stink bugs], including the pictured species, is in the infraorder Pentatomomorpha).”

Double wrong 🙂

As bug_girl notes on flickr, these are plant-feeding bugs.

Stinky bug identification, TripAdvisor!

And besides a re-tweet from @TripAdvisor about this post, this was the only response I got from writing a message to TripAdvisor via their website, about this misleading error:

Hi Bedbugger,

Thanks for taking the time to write to us. Since our motto is, “Get the truth, then go,” we certainly don’t want to mislead our members about bed bugs! I can see that we responded to your comment on Twitter (twitter.com/tripadvisor), and I’ll also forward this email to our PR team in case they want to contact you themselves.

Thanks, and best of luck with all your Bedbugger endeavors!

Regards,
[name withheld]
TripAdvisor Support Team

A striped stink bug:

Photo credit: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez, under Creative Commons license.

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1 bug_girl February 26, 2009 at 7:57 am

Dear Lord. The insects on that banner are plant feeding true bugs (hemiptera). Colossal Taxonomic FAIL.

2 bug_girl February 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

Oh: Striped Stink Bug (Graphosoma lineatum), probably. I’ll see if I can get a confirmation on that for you.

3 nobugsonme February 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Thanks, bug_girl!

I knew my entomologist readers would be able to help. Once confirmed, I will update the post.

4 nobugsonme February 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I also wrote to Tripadvisor about my two concerns with the feature, and invited them to read this post, which I hope they’ll do.

5 nobugsonme February 26, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I guess they did read it.

Thanks to Tripadvisor for Tweeting this post.

Anything else?

6 bug_girl March 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

it is indeed the Striped Stink bug.

In fact, as someone pointed out:
“Note that bed bugs are not only in a separate Family, but in a separate infraorder (family Cimicidae [bed bugs] is in the infraorder Cimicomorpha, family Pentatomidae [stink bugs], including the pictured species, is in the infraorder Pentatomomorpha).”

Double wrong 🙂
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bug_girl/3311537160/

7 nobugsonme March 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Thanks, bug_girl! Much appreciated. I added the information and photo of the imposter to the post above.

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