Ugh! Motel room bedbugs crash the party

Groton - This birthday celebration included some uninvited - and very much unwelcome - guests.

Last weekend, Nicole Main of Middleton, N.H., came to southeastern Connecticut with her sister-in-law and a friend to celebrate her sister-in-law's 21st birthday with a visit to Mohegan Sun. Afterward they drove to the Super 8 Motel in Groton to spend the night.

"I didn't sleep very well," Main said Monday. "I was itchy all night."

In the morning, she and her friends discovered why: bedbugs. They found them crawling across the sheets and in the crevices of the mattresses they had just slept on.

"I collected a few in a cup and brought them to the front desk," Main said.

Then she called the Ledge Light Health District, which sent an inspector to the motel. Main said she learned to identify bedbugs from training she had in a job she formerly held at a hotel. Neither she nor her friends found any visible marks from bedbug bites.

Terence Wong, manager of the Super 8, said Monday the Ledge Light inspectors found the bedbugs only in the room Main and her friends used. A pest control company has sprayed the room once, and will return for a second spraying today, he said, and the mattresses have been thrown out.

"It's a stinky situation," he said, "but it's sort of uncontrollable. It's from other travelers bringing them in."

He said the same problem occurred about two years ago, affecting two rooms. Exterminators were hired then, too.

A Ledge Light official Monday confirmed that a health inspector visited the motel, but referred further questions to another Ledge Light official, who could not be reached.

Bedbugs, growing to about one-quarter-inch long, feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals and are most active at night. Their bites can leave red welts and cause irritation and itching, but are not known to transmit any diseases, according to information on the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's Web site.

Once thought to be eradicated in North America, they made a resurgence a few years ago, and are now "increasingly becoming a problem in residences of all kinds, including homes, apartments, hotels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters," according to information from the Harvard School of Public Health. They are brought in guests' luggage, clothing, pillows and furniture, and getting rid of them can require several treatments of a professional exterminator.

According to a recent Associated Press article, New York City had 8,830 bedbug complaints in 2008, nearly five times more than in 2005, and communities across the country are battling widespread infestations.

Wong said he's trying to work out a fair settlement with Main and her friends to pay for the costs of cleaning their clothing and other belongings that were in the room. In the meantime, Main is keeping everything she had with her that night in plastic bags in her car. She'd like the motel to pay for the cost of cleaning her car, too, and hasn't driven it since she arrived home.

Wong added that he's already removed the $61 charge for the room from Main's credit card.

"Of course I would be upset too if something like this happened," he said. "We're going to do what we can and what is fair."

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