Bed bugs: cinema scare in Toronto, moving day in Boston, and New York hotel, schools, and flea markets

by nobugsonme on September 2, 2010 · 2 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug disclosure, bed bug laws, bed bugs, bed bugs and students, bed bugs and travel, bed bugs in hotels, bed bugs in schools, bed bugs in theaters, boston, new york, new york city, toronto, used furniture

This is a bed bug news round-up for Toronto, Boston, and New York.

A Toronto International Film Festival venue was inspected for bed bugs Monday night after a filmgoer tweeted that she “woke with bites” four hours after viewing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the Scotiabank Theatre on Richmond St. W., according to The Star. Cineplex told The Star that a dog team and “secondary visual inspection” by humans found no evidence of bed bugs.

We’re glad to hear that visual inspections followed the canine’s inspections, though usually visual inspections are done only after dogs alert (if they’re done at all), so it is not clear whether the dogs thought they found anything and alerted, or not. In any case, visual evidence is needed to confirm the presence of bed bugs.

While it’s possible for a venue to have bed bugs present which are missed in such an inspection, the filmgoer should also consider the likelihood she was bitten in the place she slept after the theater, or, for that matter, in any other place she’d been recently. (And that’s assuming these were bed bug bites.)

Unfortunately, since there is often a time delay before bed bug bite reactions appear (if they appear at all), it is often difficult to pinpoint where and when the bite occurred.

I have to admit, it would be funny if all of the recent “bed bugs in movie theater” stories involved someone watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which was also the movie being shown when the AMC Empire 25 incident occurred in New York City a few weeks ago.

Over in Boston, the New York Times reported that members of the Boston Inspectional Services Department and the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC) spent Wednesday placing orange bed bug warning stickers on discarded furniture left on curbs by students moving from one apartment to another (September 1st is the year’s big moving day for tenants in Boston).

Boston ISD is the city department that is called out to inspect when tenants complain about bed bugs. They have for a number of years had a fairly advanced protocol for enforcing correction of bed bugs in rental units.

bed bugs?!

bed bugs?! by grenade (kenji ross), used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

We first told you about the orange stickers and about the ABCDC back in 2007. They were one of the first community organizations to take action on bed bugs. Boston ISD and the ABCDC have been putting out the stickers on September 1st every year since 2004.

We’ve been hoping for almost as long that other cities would adopt the idea of the stickers, which could be made available for anyone discarding used items any time of year. We’re such fans, in fact, that one of our site’s early banners featured the photo above of the bed bug warning sticker.

Lots of used and discarded items end up being resold, so it’s fitting that on Wednesday, the New York Times also explored the effects of bed bugs on flea markets and thrift stores, and their customers.

And remember New York State’s bed bug school disclosure bill, requiring schools to notify parents if bed bugs are present in school? It has now finally been signed into law, and applies to all school districts in New York State with a million or more students. See this Daily News story from Wednesday for more.

Finally, singer Lauren Hildebrandt told USA Today on Wednesday that she was recently bitten by bed bugs in an “unidentified luxury hotel” in New York City’s Union Square.

She may now be the unofficial celebrity spokesperson for inspecting hotel rooms before you settle in:

Underscoring the incredible difficulty in eliminating bed bugs, [Hildebrandt and her mother and manager, Mary Maguire] say the hotel in question told them the property had been undergoing weekly searches with specially trained dogs – and the hotel’s managers personally conduct spot checks on guestrooms. Hildebrandt says she doesn’t blame the hotel.

“The traveler has to be diligent,” Hildebrandt says. “I travel constantly, as it is a huge part of my profession. I will now always look at my hotel bed before agreeing to take the room. I will not place a suitcase on the bed, ever. I will also pack items in plastic bags. I’ll do everything I can to take precautions from now on.”

It’s a good start!

More detailed tips for travelers on precautions to take while traveling (and what to do if you encounter bed bugs away from home) can be found in our Travel FAQs.

1 Emmm September 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

What’s bothersome about the Toronto story is the original articles indicated that Cineplex hired Abell to do the inspections, including canine. Abell does not have bed bug dogs– a quick phone call verifies that (complete with customer service agent claiming they aren’t effective…). If it was another company, The Star failed to mention that, making it shoddy reporting. If not, someone in the chain of command wasn’t entirely honest. (Also, Abell’s visual inspections– costing $75 as of last year– aren’t especially effective, I understand. Claiming they were experts in the field blows my mind)

If TIFF wasn’t around the corner, I wonder how differently this story would have played out…

2 nobugsonme September 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Wow, good sleuthing Emmm.

Even if Abell sub-contracted out for the dogs, the fact that you report their customer service rep told you “dogs don’t work” makes this all very fishy… I mean, why would a firm call in a dog team if they did not believe in them?

Although dogs’ effectiveness can vary greatly, there do exist effective teams which verify alerts with visual inspections.

On the other hand, I would not rely on any firm’s “overnight visual inspection” of an entire movie theater, given that we’re told it takes a really knowledgeable and experienced pro hours and hours to visually search an apartment for bed bugs.

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