Stop trashing bedbugs! They give hotels a certain cache

Why we should open our arms to the new bug invading London hotels
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The Independent Travel
They are oval, flat and reddish brown. And they are coming. According to the latest edition of the Good Hotel Guide, published last Monday, they were "first spotted in 1997 in eight hotels in the Earl's Court area". Now they are scuttling across London.

If you hadn't heard, these are the "super-bedbugs", otherwise known as Cimus lectularius, currently invading London's hotels. Apparently immune to the most commonly used pesticides, they have a clever trick of laying their eggs in the middle of pillows and mattresses so that the only means to eradicate them is to burn all the bedding in the room. In fact, to be really sure it may be necessary to demolish entire rooms, buildings or streets. Or even cities.

The most admirable thing about these creatures is their taste. Not for them the outer reaches of Hackney or Tower Hamlets. No, these fastidious insects are so far determined to make their mark in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

You see, somehow they know. They know, for example, that there is little purpose infesting cheap hotels on the outskirts of London because it will not get them into the news. And they clearly understand that anything to do with the Royals makes an easy target these days.

On a different note, they also happen to be extraordinarily hardy. When guests start getting uppety about being bitten they should remember that these bugs may not have had a mouthful of anything for up to six months - that's how long they can survive between meals.

In short, I'm amazed that travellers have the nerve to complain about bed bugs. After all, these resourceful little fellows rather resemble travellers: they have been around, they stay in Earls Court hotels and they get by on very little. What's more, they were presumably brought into this country by travellers in the first place.

Considering that they eat only twice a year and that they are small to the point of being invisible, I have to say that basically they are all right. The fact that only one American tourist has required medical treatment for bed-bug bites in Kensington does not strike me as a bad record at all.

And anyway people's most memorable nights while on holiday always involve some kind of insect life. These are in the really interesting hotels, the ones that liven up at the dead of night. I recall riotous nights under yellow bulbs in windowless rooms in Cairo, where the walls were black with mosquitoes. Characterful hotels always resonate in the darkness to the sound of scaly cockroaches scuttling over plaster walls.

Yes, I'm talking about moth-eaten carpets, non-fitting window-frames, torn mosquito nets, explosive rusty plumbing, sagging mattresses and odd little items of wooden furniture that nobody has ever used. Hotels where mysterious banging noises rattle your door at inconvenient intervals throughout the night. These are the hotels that have not yet been identified by the owners as characterful, and have not yet been fumigated or had fitting windows installed.

Along with room attendants who burst in at inopportune moments, bed bugs are just one more essential component of these establishments and waking to find itchy red weals all over our bottoms is part and parcel of the experience. There is nothing that a good dollop of antihistamine cream will not soothe.

As for good hotels, well these of course do not have bedbugs. Instead they have large numbers of dead towels hanging from chrome pipes in the bathroom. The water that gushes from their taps is inert. They have carpets of extreme shagginess which are tragically devoid of any forms of life. They have heavy drape curtains which seal light out and air in. They are unnervingly silent.

Too silent, probably. Who knows whether even now the bed bugs are not planning an invasion of the world's five-star hotels, instilling life and character in their wake. How can they be stopped? Will some new, terrible pesticide be brought out to defeat them? When they attack, my thoughts will be with them.

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