Montreal Sous Bois Hostel: WiFi and bedbugs included


in Canada, Daily updates, Travel

The Sous Bois hostel in Montreal is quite a lively place. In some ways, it is an unusually good establishment. The atmosphere is positive, there is free wireless internet, the location is good, and the facilities are fairly well maintained. One nice touch is providing a big bowl of earplugs (a necessity in almost any hostel).

The biggest problem with the Sous Bois, in my experience, is the bedding. The bunks consist of squeaky air mattresses and the sheets they provide are awfully scanty for Montreal in winter. It is a good thing I ended up sleeping in my shoes, trousers, and jacket, since I woke up with my hands and ankles covered in small, itchy insect bites. All told, I have about 100 of them, after two nights in the place. Lots of other ex-guests mention the bugs, which demonstrates the importance of researching low-cost accommodations, rather than choosing one that appears high on Google and has a nice webpage. The lack of secure storage facilities is also a problem.

This definitely wasn’t the worst hostel I have stayed in (the Hosteling International places across from St. Mark’s Square in Venice and on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City share that dishonour), but it isn’t one I would be quick to stay in again.

[Update: 29 October 2007] This afternoon I spoke with Fred Bouchard, a manager at the Sous Bois Hostel. He seemed suspiciously familiar with bedbugs: asking me whether the bites were clustered in lines (as bedbug bites are) and then telling me that the hostel policy was to refund the cost of your stay (within two weeks) and to pay for any bite-related medications prescribed by a doctor. He told me to see a doctor immediately and that I need to either immerse everything I had with me in boiling water or put it through the dryer on high for at least half an hour. Once it gets cold enough, I will freeze the suit-carrying luggage that is presently in garbage bag quarantine for at least three days.

It seems pretty clear that this hostel is well aware of their infestation. That probably explains the minimal sheets and the air mattresses, as well as the ease with which the staff recall their bedbug policies. Once I find the right phone number within the City of Montreal bureaucracy, I will file a report with the public health authorities. In some cases, bedbugs can carry hepatitis; also, infestations that people bring home could easily cost thousands of dollars to clear up. As such, it seems reasonable that the city authorities would be concerned that this place is still operating in such a dodgy manner.

[Update: 31 October 2007] The hostel refunded me for my stay. One person contacted me through one of the hosteling webpages to tell me that they gave her a refund too, after she found their non-paying guests snacking on her.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 29, 2007 at 12:24 am

This is comforting, at least:

“A common concern with bed bugs is whether they transmit diseases. Although bed bugs can harbor pathogens in their bodies, transmission to humans is highly unlikely. For this reason, they are not considered a serious disease threat. Their medical significance is mainly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce allergic reactions, and antiseptic or antibiotic ointments to prevent infection. Infestations also may cause anxiety, embarrassment, and loss of sleep.”

Milan October 29, 2007 at 12:25 am

This, much, much less so:

“It often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere. The bugs are efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported in on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, etc. Outbreaks can often be traced to travel, especially in countries or cities where bed bugs are common. This is a particular problem for hotels, motels, and apartments, where turnover of occupants is constant. Bed bugs are small, cryptic and agile, escaping detection after crawling into suitcases, boxes, and belongings. The eggs are almost impossible to see when laid on most surfaces. Use of secondhand beds, couches, and furniture is another way that the bugs are transported into previously non-infested dwellings.”


* Bed bugs can live a year or longer without food (blood) and thus stay in their hiding places.
* Bed bugs can travel long distances and survive in suitcases, clothing, vehicles, aircraft, cruise ships and other modes of transportation.
* Bed bug females lay about 300 eggs.
* Bed bugs hatch from eggs in 10 days.

Milan October 29, 2007 at 12:33 am

I am beginning an aggressive process of precautionary bedbug eradication. The hostel can await my angry phone call tomorrow.

Anon October 29, 2007 at 1:33 am

Bedbugs? That sucks.

Wash all your clothes in hot water, have a very thorough shower, and wash or freeze (for several days) your luggage before vacuuming it thoroughly.

R.K. October 29, 2007 at 8:11 am

The lack of secure storage facilities is also a problem.

Were your bags near your bunk? If so, they are the most probable route by which those evil bloodsuckers might have followed you home.

Litty October 29, 2007 at 9:56 am

If they have known about the infestation for a while, you should report them.

Montreal public health agency:
514 521-2100

Montreal Better Business Bureau:

Litty October 29, 2007 at 10:00 am

For hygiene or vermin problems linked to food — markets, restaurants, fruit stores, etc. — call the Environment Department of the Montreal Urban Community at (514) 280-4300.

For all non-food-related problems, please call the City of Montreal at the Accès Montréal number: (514) 872-1111.

Ben October 29, 2007 at 7:00 pm

If their policy is to offer you a refund, you’d have thought they wouldn’t stay in business too long if this was that widespread a problem…

Milan October 29, 2007 at 7:56 pm


It took some complaining, to two different people, before they offered that. Also, it remains to be seen whether it actually materializes within two weeks, as promised.

Tom October 29, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Cimex lectularius are evil creatures.

Every site I have seen about them makes me shudder.

Tom October 29, 2007 at 8:42 pm

“Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. ”

So nasty!

. July 7, 2008 at 11:46 am

I really hate to write this because in general I am a big fan of hostels, budget travel and renovated, historic properties. However, I had an absolutely horrible experience with this hostel: I work up the next morning with many bed bug bites.

Over the next day more developed and then the allergic reaction developed. I spent the night in the emergency room and spent a lot of money on medical care as I was at that time uninsured. I think I might have had about 50 bites.

. September 8, 2008 at 11:21 am

I desperately need your help. My house has become infested with bedbugs! I’m trying to find an environmentally friendly way to get rid of them. I’ve tried a thorough cleaning and tried using diatomaceous earth (fossil shell flour) to no avail. The local exterminator is looking more and more appealing. Please stop me before I do something rash like resorting to him and the nasty chemicals he’ll be using.

Pasadena, Calif.

Dearest Ofer,

Yipes. Would it help to know that you are not alone, or is that cold comfort? Can I distract you by offering scintillating scientific information about this blood-sucking, night-feeding parasite, Cimex lectularius? For example, the female bedbug possesses a secondary copulatory aperture — a notch, or invagination, in her body wall — known as the Ribaga’s organ. During mating, the male actually pierces her exoskeleton with a dagger-like, spermatozoa-carrying organ in a process known as traumatic insemination.

tierre October 19, 2008 at 3:34 am

Im so sick of this they’re driving me crazy I can’t sleep at night and now my 3 year old nephew has bites what’s going on?

. April 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Bedbug outbreak

AP Video – Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 9:56 EDT

The tiny insects were last seen in great numbers before World War II. The EPA held a first-of-a-kind meeting to address the problem.

. September 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

Bed bug infestations ‘increasing’
By Cory Allen
BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast

There has been a massive increase in the number of bed bug infestations, according to a survey.

Statistics from councils in London and the Midlands show the rate increased three-fold in the last decade.

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Bed Bugs Limited, which says the insects “breed at a phenomenal rate”.

Bed bugs are insects that commonly hide in mattresses and carpets and in the crevices of furniture.

They are a reddish-brown colour, oval-shaped insect that can grow to a quarter of an inch long.

They cannot fly and survive by sucking blood from a host animal, mainly at night.

There are distinct hotspots in highly populated areas, with lots of multi-occupancy housing where the bugs can easily spread from one household to another.

. September 15, 2009 at 11:42 am

Global War On Bedbugs: Letters from Bedbug City.

– – – –

Like the Jonas Brothers, bedbugs are everywhere. They were even found, unlike the Jonas Brothers, in the apartment of Alan Good, the author of this column, which we’ll bring you, every other week or so, observations on and news and harrowing tales of the aforementioned insidious parasites.

. October 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm

The Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of bedbug infestations. Use it to check for bedbug reports before booking a hotel room or renting an apartment.

. December 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

Bug powder causes male bedbugs to stab each other to death with their penises

By Cory Doctorow on sex

Male bedbugs will schtup anything, and when they do, their stabby little penises can do great damage to one another. Female bedbugs have some “down there” armor that absorbs the punishing blows of the bedbug’s love-spear, but males lack this protection. A pheromone discovered by a Swedish researcher can cause male bedbugs to kill each other with their penises through uncontrolled shagging

. February 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm
. July 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm

One family’s campaign against bedbugs

Exterminators, determination, hard work and pots of money did the trick (they hope)

Marsha Lederman

Vancouver — From Friday’s Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010 8:41PM EDT Last updated on Friday, Jul. 30, 2010 8:51AM EDT

I thought they were mosquito bites. Three of them, on my left shoulder. Very, very itchy. Then I woke up with more bites. Spiders, I reasoned. We stripped the bed, washed everything in hot water, vacuumed like devils. My husband came across a mosquito in the bedroom. Ah, yes, must have been mosquitoes after all.

But all along, I had a deep-down, gnawing worry that something else was biting us while we were sleeping. I had heard the stories, read the news reports. And when the bites kept coming and I finally called in the dogs, my worst fears were confirmed.

We had bedbugs.

They’ve become the scourge of social housing and the middle class alike: resilient little critters who enter your home via well-travelled luggage, a pre-loved bargain, or through the walls of your multidwelling unit. They’re tough to spot and difficult – not to mention costly – to get rid of, a process that involves someone in the house acting as living, sleeping bait.

In our house, it was Bonnie the beagle who confirmed our infestation. A local company uses trained dogs to sniff out bedbugs and Bonnie found ours: one adult, one baby and one egg (which looks like a flake of dandruff) on our box spring.

“Can you kill them?” I asked her handler. He squished the baby; the amount of blood that oozed out was shocking. “That’s my blood,” I said.

“Or your husband’s,” he said.

Thus began a more than two-month ordeal of washing, bagging, discarding and fumigating. Googling and obsessing. This might not be a public health issue according to the authorities, but try telling that to my tortured psyche.

Milan August 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

A couple of weeks ago, my friend told me about a couch on the curb of her street with a ‘warning: bedbugs’ sign on it. When we passed it later, the sign was gone and somebody was hauling the couch away.

Both my friend and I warned the man about the infestation, but he seemed determined to keep carrying the couch. It was not clear if he was the owner of the couch, hauling it off for some sort of proper disposal, or a new owner either unaware or unconcerned about the nearly indestructible bloodsuckers within.

Alison August 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

That’s why I have a “no upholstery pickup” policy.

Milan August 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

A wise policy, for sure. Both New York and Montreal apparently have huge bedbug problems now.

Apparently, that is partly the consequence of exterminators no longer being allowed to use DDT.

. August 31, 2010 at 12:30 am

They Crawl, They Bite, They Baffle Scientists
Published: August 30, 2010

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the common bedbug as merely a pestiferous six-legged blood-sucker.

Think of it, rather, as Cimex lectularius, international arthropod of mystery.

In comparison to other insects that bite man, or even only walk across man’s food, nibble man’s crops or bite man’s farm animals, very little is known about the creature whose Latin name means — go figure — “bug of the bed.” Only a handful of entomologists specialize in it, and until recently it has been low on the government’s research agenda because it does not transmit disease. Most study grants come from the pesticide industry and ask only one question: What kills it?

But now that it’s The Bug That Ate New York, Not to Mention Other Shocked American Cities, that may change.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement on bedbug control. It was not, however, a declaration of war nor a plan of action. It was an acknowledgment that the problem is big, a reminder that federal agencies mostly give advice, plus some advice: try a mix of vacuuming, crevice-sealing, heat and chemicals to kill the things.

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