Bedbugs are making their way back into modern life. Though the hard-to-shake pests were a relatively uncommon sight in the U.S. in the latter half of the 20th century, for the past few decades, they’ve been making a raging comeback, in part because of pesticide resistance. But despite their newfound prevalence, most people may have trouble picking the wide-ranging blood-suckers out of a lineup.
The New York Times reports that in a recent U.S. survey, as many of two-thirds of hotel visitors failed to identify a bedbug out of a group of other bug silhouettes. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kentucky, asked about 2000 people, both business and leisure travelers, if they could pick out which of these insects was a bedbug.
Penn et. al, American Entomologist (2017)
Only 28 percent of leisure travelers and 35 percent of business travelers picked the right bug. Forty-two percent of leisure travelers and 29 percent of business travelers didn’t even guess, picking the “I don’t know” option. (The correct answer is No. 4.)
The lack of understanding about bedbugs could have implications for spreading infestations. Only a third of travelers said they checked their hotel rooms for bedbugs before settling in. Not being able to recognize the bugs, though, could also lead to false alarms. People might panic over seeing a bug in their house and call an exterminator, only to find that it was something relatively innocuous. (University of Kentucky entomologist Michael Potter told the Times that people will bring him raisins and ask if they’re bedbugs.)
And if people start panicking over a hotel infestation that doesn’t exist, the hotel’s reputation can suffer significantly. “Our findings indicate that a single online report of bed bugs adversely impacts future bookings, irrespective of whether the review is accurate,” the researchers write.
Even if most people can’t recognize a bedbug, they certainly don’t want to sleep anywhere near one.
[h/t The New York Times]
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