…it’s best to learn what bed bugs look like.
We love you, but you need to do a bit more research on bed bugs!
They don’t look like the one pictured in your article today:
Lifehacker is part of Gawker media, which has unfortunately made similar mistakes with images before.
Don’t worry, Lifehacker/Gawker: you’re in good company. CBS, ABC and the CBC are among those who’ve made similar errors by posting photos of other bugs in bed bug stories.
All of them can be traced, it seems, to stock photo websites, which frequently wrongly tag certain images as picturing bed bugs; however, the humans selecting these images for publication also obviously don’t know what bed bugs look like and this is a problem — since many readers don’t either.
And we all need to get educated about what bed bugs look like!
Looking at our images of bed bugs, fecal stains, cast skins and eggs is a good start.
Once you know what bed bugs and other signs of this pest look like, learning to search a hotel room is a great idea. We have several FAQs on travel-related issues, including one on avoiding bed bugs when you travel (with a helpful video from David Cain, a handy wallet card from the New York State Integrated Pest Management folks at Cornell, and other resources to teach you how to search a hotel room for bed bugs and what to do if you find them).
However, not everyone reports bed bugs– in fact, I’d venture most don’t. So don’t rely on these channels. Since the pests can be brought in at any time, assume any hotel will likely have bed bugs in at least some rooms, and search to ensure your room doesn’t have obvious signs.
Then, assume you may still have been exposed, and take additional precautions. We like the idea of heating items you bring home in a dryer or Packtite, but be warned that the DIY solution Lifehacker suggests may not work well– I am far from an expert on heat or bed bug treatment, but my understanding is that this DIY heat box is based on conductive heating sources, which are not as time efficient or as effective in killing bed bugs as convective ones (which the commercial Packtite product uses). It’s not just that you need to reach and maintain a temperature in the region of 120F, but you also do not want any cold spots to which active bed bugs will flee.
Bed bug “ovens” need to be tested thoroughly with multiple heat sensors to ensure there are no cold spots. The Packtite has passed those tests, which is the main reason we like it so much.
You can read more about the ins and outs of heat treatment for bed bugs from this article by Steven Kells in Insects (free PDF currently available at that link).
Update (11/28): on Twitter, Bug Girl helpfully drew my attention to i09’s article on the bed bugs and fungus story last week, which uses a similar image from the same Shutterstock photographer. i09 is, of course, also part of Gawker media.
Clearly, the Gawker bloggers seriously need to be schooled on what bed bugs look like.
This is the i09 illustration for its bed bugs & fungus story:
Thanks for pointing this out, Bug Girl; we tip our hat to your excellent blog, now retired, and wish you all the best in your diapause and future metamorphosis!