It’s the stuff of nightmares. You check into your hotel room late at night, climb into bed, and snuggle up in crisp white sheets ready for a good night’s sleep, only to find a dead-eyed bedbug staring down at you. the duvet cover.
Fortunately, for Bethan Edwards and her partner, who had booked a two-night stay at the Travelodge London Finsbury Park in early February, it never got so far.
Bethan says she spotted one of the horrific creatures sitting on the bedspread before she even unpacked it and went downstairs to report it to reception, armed with photographic evidence.
“It was disgusting,” says Bethan, who was offered another room but declined.
“We didn’t feel comfortable staying at the hotel after that and didn’t want to risk finding an infestation. We asked for a refund but the staff member at reception said he couldn’t give us one.
“We had to leave at 1am to find another place in the area, which cost us more than double what we had already paid.”
What are bed bugs?
Dark orange in color, bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and hide during the day under the seams of mattresses and baseboards, in bed frames and electrical switch plates. They crawl out at night while you sleep to gorge on your blood, attracted to your body heat and carbon dioxide emissions.
Night ghouls inject an anesthetic into your skin so you don’t feel anything while they feast and their bites can take a few days to develop. Once they do, they itch like crazy, and while not dangerous, they can get infected if you scratch too much.
As if that weren’t enough, the psychological impact of a presence of bedbugs can cause severe anxiety, depression and paranoia.
Unfortunately for travelers, bedbugs, or cimex lectularius to give them their official name, are easily transmitted and extremely difficult to eradicate once an infestation has taken hold.
In addition to hotels (five-star or seedy motel, they do not respect the status), you can pick them up on public transport, in offices and apartment buildings.
They can’t fly, so they rely on humans for transportation and will happily hitch a ride in your suitcase, purse, or wallet while you lie blissfully unconscious.
Bed bugs were common in the UK around a century ago, but their numbers have been drastically reduced by the use of insecticides such as the now illegal DDT.
Since then, the cunning insects have developed resistance to chemical treatments, making their eradication more difficult.
New York experienced a bedbug invasion in 2010, terrifying hotel guests and Broadway theatergoers and temporarily closing the Niketown store on 57th Street.
A decade later, in France, the government launched a “bedbug hotline” in response to a major return of the bloodsucking menace.
How to avoid a hotel with bed bugs
Adam Juson, co-founder of Merlin Environmental Pest Control Company, is one of the few people in the UK to train sniffer dogs to track down bed bugs. Smart dogs can locate a single insect in a hotel room, laundry room, or even in a vacuum cleaner.
The best way to avoid picking up one (or more) of the Nightmare Beasts at a hotel is to read reviews before booking a stay, says Adam.
“Make sure guests don’t report bed bug problems and stick with reputable hotels and guesthouses. Many of them hire pest control companies to regularly screen for bed bugs rather than to wait for customers to report a problem.
“You can also check with hotel management to find out if they are screening if in doubt.”
Other ways to minimize risk include using the rack rather than the floor to store your suitcase and checking the mattress and bedding for telltale signs: bloodstains from crushed insects, as well as rusty and black colored ink stains, otherwise known as bed bug poo. .
A Travelodge spokesperson said: “We have carried out a thorough investigation using an independent specialist company.
“Their findings confirmed that there was no evidence of bedbugs in the room Miss Edwards stayed in. We have shared this report with Miss Edwards.”
The company has since offered Bethan a full refund and an apology.