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Update: oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 28th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I am sure you are all wondering with baited breath to find out if I got bedbugs from our hotel! I am happy to report that I saw nary a sign of those little suckers. But I did get double charged! We can’t have nice things, obviously. If they don’t reverse the second charge, then I guess I’m going to have to find a bedbug and drop it off for a walkabout.

It really could be an eye-opening experience peeling back the sheets on a hotel bed, but I am happy to say these mattresses were pristine, as were the areas around the beds. Is it ever conceivable that you might spot a mattress that was stained from a past infestation but since heat treated and bedbug free? Is the only acceptable option for a hotel to destroy any mattress that has been implicated in an infestation? I am curious. We shlubs at home can’t always afford to toss a mattress, but a hotel should have a budget for total replacement, no? I would think there should at least be an encasement on the mattress, for added protection.

If you found an encasement on a hotel bed, would you demand another room just to be on the safe side, or would you assume they were aware of the problem and had it under control?

Oh, the holiday horror

Posted: December 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

It was bound to happen: I have to stay in a hotel tonight. In a moderately cruddy small town where the Hampton Inn is the premier choice. Yes, bedbugs can lurk at any level of finery, and they do get to go some pretty fancy places, but as a rule I get a little hinky when a luxury brand isn’t available. This trip to the frozen tundra of Maine is not my idea of a good time, and if I return with bedbugs, I’ll be even more irate.

I just instructed my husband that NOTHING is to be set on the bed or floor until I have conducted a thorough white glove inspection. Luggage and the child will be placed on the luggage rack or in the tub. Coats will be hung in the closet. Outlaws will be hanged.

I will strip back the sheets and check the mattress for spots, streaks, bedbug casings, dead bedbugs, or heaven forfend, live bedbugs. Hotel bedspreads are some of the most disgusting pieces of fabric on Earth, so you bet I’ll be removing that as a matter of principle. I may skip the luminol check since it’s Christmas. Peace on earth and glorious ignorance to blood spatter from dead hookers and all.

I’ll also be poking around the night stands and baseboards and under the bed with a flashlight. If I find anything, we will march to the lobby and demand to be moved to another room. I’ll take photos first, because it’s always nice to threaten to put things on Trip Advisor if anyone sasses me with his mouth hole about getting a new room or a refund. I like to plan ahead. I’m not above picking up a sample with packing tape and sealing it in a Ziploc either. And of course if I can snag a live bug, we can finally start our Nix Bedbugs Science Research Colony.

I’ve also disabused my husband of the notion that all we have to do to prevent bringing home bedbugs is to leave the bags in the car in the cold for a day or two. The suitcases are getting bagged, and everything’s going straight into the washer when we get home. And the suitcase will get vacuumed within an inch of its life. If I actually found bedbug signs in the hotel room, I might spring for a PackTite just to be on the safe side. If you follow that link, be sure to use coupon code PT1217 at checkout to get $10 off PackTite Heaters through 12/31/10.

Have a safe and bedbug free holiday, everyone! What do you think the bedbugs will say when the animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve? I imagine them using rather rough language.

Reader Question of the Week: Bedbugs on a plane!

Posted: November 20th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Q: Hey guys, I am traveling to NYC and Boston next week for the thanksgiving holiday and I’m scared that I might get bedbugs from the plane or the bus I’m taking.  Is there anything I can do to prevent this?  Also I am seriously considering buying a huge plastic bag to put all of my clothes in inside of my suitcase just in case…. is this a good idea?

A:  The greatest risk from traveling generally comes from hotels, as you will find most bedbugs where the humans like to sleep.  There have been few reports of people being bitten while on a plane. While you may not get noshed on as you sit, it is certainly possible to pick up stowaways en route where baggage is collected together.

Sealing your clothes in plastic would keep them safe, but if they nestle in your suitcase or purse, you still have a problem.  You could certainly seal your luggage in plastic while traveling.  The most important thing is not to bring them home.  When you return home, do not mix clothing with your regular laundry. Bag it up until it can be washed, or at least throw it in the dryer on medium-high heat for at least 15-20 minutes if it has already been laundered on your trip. If you can’t use the dryer on your suitcase or purse, thoroughly vacuum your bags, paying special attention to creases. You could store your suitcase in a plastic bag as a precaution.

Here are some other handy tips for traveling.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Weekly Link Rodeo, 10/19/10

Posted: October 19th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

OK, so the rodeo is a little late this week. I normally like to cram it in over a hangover on the weekend. But I had obligations and shenanigans, see. Like a migrating loon, I was traveling to my ancestral home, a few hundred miles away. Of course I checked all the beds and the staff of JetBlue for bedbugs. They don’t like that, it turns out. They also don’t like that lady who clapped and said “YAY!” when informed the coffee was really Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Anyway, after my dad stopped laughing at my internet farming enterprises, he told me that he had bedbugs in the 1930s, as a tender child, in his apartment in Park Slope! So the song remains the same, Brooklynites. I offered him the chance to write up the tale of that experience in exchange for absolutely no money, but he didn’t jump on that one for some reason. If you want to hear the story, stomp and hold your breath in the comments, and maybe we’ll reach consensus.


NH School cancels field trip for bedbugs at camp [via NECN.com]

I think you get the gist here. Those poor bedbugs aren’t going to camp due to some harsh, pencil-necked paperpusher. Oh, you mean the children aren’t going to camp because there were bedbugs at the camp. Well, why didn’t you say so?  Nature’s Classroom at Camp Cody in Freedom turned out to have bedbugs. Discovered by dogs, being treated by some unnamed method.  Nature’s. Classroom. I can’t think of a more authentic way for children to learn, honestly. You’re just going to be dealing with this same problem when you find yourself at 18 and run off to NY, clutching your well-worn Rent DVD. You’re not gonna pay the rent! Except you are, and you’ll pay even if you have bedbugs! Insolent whelp.

Bedbugs found in Maine hospital surgical unit [via NECN.com again]

Just last week, bedbugs were discovered at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston….

It was a patient who first alerted staff to the presence of bedbugs in one of the medical surgical units. The floor remains closed as a precaution until officials are sure the bedbugs are gone.

Wow, New England is hopping, er, crawling these days! Aren’t you glad you live in NY, then, paying your rent? Oh, wait. I can’t imagine which would piss me off more after surgery: wake up with MRSA or frigging BEDBUGS. Can’t they just randomly aim a large laser around and kill them all?

Celebrity skin

Posted: October 5th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

By now we’ve all heard that Howard Stern fell victim to bedbugs at work in the Sirius offices and in his own limo. Stern is not one to shy away from discussions of the vile and unseemly, bless his heart. It ain’t no thing, and he’s got people to take care of those things, although we hope the chemical fumigation of the limo managed to kill any lingering nymphs and instars as well as the mature bedbugs.

Allegedly, Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper recently had to ditch a swanky mattress over bedbugs, but the source on this one seems a little shaky. But it is certainly plausible. Celebrities frequently travel for work, and these days it seems like only a matter of time until a bedbug clings on to the bottom of your Louboutins and follows you home. You should always perform visual inspections when you travel, even in first class.

Back in 2006, Saturday Night Live star Maya Rudolph and her husband, director Paul Anderson, were forced to flee a $13,000 per month luxury rental loft in SoHo. They sued the property and owner for $450,000, claiming they were bitten within days of moving in. When an exterminator arrived, he apparently told them to clear out for a bit to keep their baby safe, and that was enough for them. One might expect a pest-free apartment for $13,000 per month.

Opera singer Alison Trainer was a bedbug victim during a hotel stay, and she filed a lawsuit for $6 million against Hilton Hotels. “She looks like a piece of wood that has been attacked by termites,” said Trainer’s attorney, Kenneth J. Glassman.

But let’s get to what we really want to talk about: which celebrities look like they should be harboring bedbugs already? Sure, bedbugs are equal opportunity little pests, but let’s say you were on Family Feud, and you had to spit out the first suspect luminary that popped into your head or risk the wrath of your grandmother, who is played by Betty White in this delusion? Would your list go a little like this?


Lindsay Lohan

Pete Doherty

Courtney Love

Joaquin Phoenix’s beard, tied with Britney’s weave

Spencer Pratt

Tila Tequila

Russell Brand

Insane Clown Posse

Bedbug Stowaway

Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Lower Manhattan, 2008.  It was the first day of spring truly warm enough to sit outside for lunch.  I left the office tower overlooking ground zero and headed over to Centre Street to get a cup of soup.  The weather was fair, so I ate seated on a park bench in City Hall Park.  At the end of the day, I passed through the park again, and boarded the M train back to Bushwick.  The train was not crowded at Chambers St., so sat down on the slick, cold, powder blue bench and began to rummage through my bag in search of my phone.  On the black surface of the bag’s exterior, something amber caught my eye.  I forgot about the phone, wondering about the tiny seedlike spot on my bag.  I looked more closely.  Some kind of insect, nestled in the velcro closure.  Gross.  I grabbed a pen from my bag and used the tip to prise it off and onto the empty seat beside me.  It was small, but much too large to be a bedbug, right?  I mean, aren’t they supposed to be the size of a pepper flake? (As it happens, bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed).  I had no problem making out its horrid little details as it sat there, inert and ugly.  A tick or some kind of beetle, I thought.  I took a photo that I might consult the internet.

The train filled up and everyone kept their distance from the unwanted passenger.  Not knowing what it was, I let the ugly little fellow be and promptly forgot all about it.  Two months later I was greeted by the A.M. paper at that station, its shrill cover announcing “Epidemic!” and covered with a dozen huge copies of my little stowaway.  The ICK traveled forward through time.  Bedbug!  My innocence was thus lost.  No mere accidental tourist, that was a villain, a saboteur cleaving to the fibers of my bag’s closure, hoping to smuggle itself into my bedroom to feast on me at night.  “I had a bedbug!  And I nearly brought it home!”, my mind shrieked and chattered.  But where had it come from?  Subway cars are likely culprits, due to the volume of human traffic.  But I had just boarded the train.  My recollection flew back to the park bench, also suspect.  City Hall Park is host to travellers, office workers, walkers of large breeds and crazypants vagrants alike.  It is definitely possible it came from the office , but it seemed unlikely to me in this case since the space was very new, I sat in an isolated area entirely by myself, and had never been bitten there.  The park bench was definitely a variable element in my day.  City Hall Park.  Where is America’s Mayor when you need him??  Probably off whispering “9-11” into the ear of a prostitute.  It is lucky I dispatched the loathsome fellow myself.  I never sit on park benches now without giving a good little once over.  These days, even my office chair gets a periodic check.  Shudder.

Hotel Illness: Bedbugs in Your Bag

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chris Robinson, best known as the illustrious hirsute poet of the 90’s and ex-husband to A-Rod’s girlfriend, sang the troubling lyric “This room smells like hotel illness/The scars I hide are now your business.”  How prescient, given the newfound horror of hotel rooms infested with bedbugs.

Frankly, the entire track listing for the album bearing this ditty is akin to a “Nostradamus Wuz Here: Bedbugs Ahoy” scrawl on an alley wall: “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” “Thorn in My Pride,” “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye,” “Time Will Tell?”  Anyone who travels far and wide for pleasure or business, or even just books the occasional local room for whipping tired businessmen or stringing up truckers, needs to be vigilant to avoid her own bad luck. Time will indeed tell if you’ve brought back a little stowaway  in your valise. Worst case scenario depicted below:

What can we do to protect ourself and our extensive Vuitton collections when we travel?

Before you travel: check hotel reviews online if possible. Our go-to source is TripAdvisor.com. People are vocal about any negative situations, including bedbugs or other pest or cleanliness issues. Pack a flashlight for room inspection purposes. Pack gallon-size Ziploc bags and even a trash bag with twist tie, in the event that you need to quarantine any contaminated clothing or personal items prior to returning home. Double-sided tape may also come in handy.

1. Set your luggage and other belongings down on the luggage rack or on top of a dresser as soon as you enter the room, after giving those places a once-over, of course. Some folks favor the tub for containment.  Consider skipping the carpet-floored luggage carts you may find in larger hotels. Consider not letting the staff touch anything you own and perhaps screaming “Ahhh! Get away!” depending on the establishment you’ve chosen.

2. Immediately inspect the mattress, box spring, and bedding on the bed. Check behind the headboard and on the floor under the bed. You are looking for little, flat reddish-brown bugs. Think the size of an apple seed or smaller. Want pictures? Here, we warned you. You are also looking for any unusual reddish or black pinprick-sized spots or streaks, which are bedbug feces. The seams of the mattress are especially a good catching ground for these pests and their droppings.

You should apply your normal black light inspection to comforters, as bedbugs are only a part of your worries. Luminol optional. OK, just take the comforter off completely. It’s disgusting on many levels. You do travel with your own linens and power steamer, right? Kidding. Sort of.

3. Check the rest of the furniture and textiles in the room. Curtains, sofas, chairs, and carpets are also harboring places. This is where the flashlight may come in handy. Between the wall and carpet edge is a good place to check. Remove chair and couch cushions and pillows and really check the crevices for bedbugs or bedbug signs.

4. If you discover any signs of bedbug life on initial inspection or wake up with bites or an unfortunate later find, toss your stuff in a trash bag and get thee to the front desk. A good manager will move you to a new room or refund your money, no questions asked. If you feel the need, you can snap photos of the insect defects in the room and any bites or use your sticky tape to pick up any visible bug for evidence in the event of resistance.

If you meet with resistance on your first request, try to escalate by asking for a supervisor, a manager, even the owner. Mention you can dispute any charges via your credit card company and report your experience on numerous hotel review sites. Remain calm but firm and persistent. Note the name of everyone you must talk to in the process. If all that fails, get the hell out of there and dispute any amount billed to your card. Any evidence may come in handy.

5. While you are happily snuggled in the room, keep clothing and possessions off the floors and furniture when possible. Keep suitcases, purses, and laptop and camera bags zipped shut when not in use. For added peace of mind, keep those items sealed within a trash bag while in the room. Some people swear by putting sticky tape around the legs of the bed to trap anything attempting to climb, but bear in mind bugs may already be deep in the mattress and have been known to drop from the ceiling. Your best bet is vigilance in advance, in terms of reading reviews and your own inspections.

6. When you return home, thoroughly vacuum your suitcase and other bags, paying special attention to creases. Do not mix clothing with your regular laundry. Bag it up until it can be washed, or at least throw it in the dryer on medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes if it has already been laundered on your trip. If you can’t use the dryer on your suitcase, considering sunning it outside or leaving it in sub-freezing temps or a hot car for a few days.

Ahhhhh!!! What else can I do?

Check out this list of the 15 Most Bedbug Infested US Cities from CBS News, and keep that in mind as you make travel plans. Don’t avoid any particular area, just up your vigilance as needed. Realistically, the majority of hotel rooms you’ll visit will likely be bedbug free, but it never hurts to be vigilant, and the relative status or cleanliness of the hotel is not necessarily an indicator on its own without eyewitness reviews of actual infestation.

Yours truly encountered bedbugs in a hotel in Baltimore (shocking, right?) about 5 years ago before the problem was widely discussed, but I had no idea what the bites were until I read other reviews of the hotel later. I was storing my luggage on the rack and my clothes in the dresser, so perhaps this was the deciding factor in being lucky enough not to carry any of the little Paris Hiltons home with me. There but for the grace of Baltimore went I.