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Be careful what you bring home from holiday

Bed bugs

We’ve noticed a worrying trend in the last year – the rise of the bed bug. Comparing the same periods in 2021 and 2022, we have seen a 24.6% increase in callouts for bed bug treatments.

This is a worrying trend because not only are bed bugs are a nasty pest that gets everywhere and can cause you disturbed sleep, but because they are really difficult to eradicate. In 2017, I answered a question about the legal rights of tenants with regards to bed bug infestations and quoted principal health inspector for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Larry Kessler, “it’s one of the few pests where we don’t want any kind of do-it-yourselfer dealing with it”

Why are we seeing an increase in beg bug infestations?

The explanation seems to be holidays.

You can’t blame people. After two years in which many of us didn’t get a proper holiday, this was the year when we got on a plane and flew to a distant land to get some sun. The only problem is, it wasn’t just a lovely suntan that many of returned home with as many people also brought home a severe case of the bed bugs. These tiny bugs find it very easy to hide in our luggage and enjoy a free one-way ticket to your home.

What to look for

The first thing you’ll probably notice are bites on exposed skin after sleeping – back, neck legs, arms. You might also see blood marks on bedding, from the bugs you squash while moving around in your sleep, or purplish spots cause by bed bug faeces (looks a bit like biro dots on the bedding).

Bed bugs can hide anywhere – bed frames, mattresses, stored clothing, furniture, picture frames, light fittings and even behind wallpaper. They are so small that it is often impossible to identify them, until it is too late and the infestation has taken over your home.

What to do if you have a bed bug problem

While bed bugs are a real problem for homeowners, they are a nuisance rather than a health threat. Occurrences of severe allergic reactions are extremely rare and so, while you must immediately get professional help, don’t panic.

I say get professional help as soon as possible because once you have an infestation, it will spread. One female can lay up to 500 eggs in a couple of months, so from a small infestation you can quickly develop a major problem.

Eggs will be deposited in any environment in which the bed bug feeds as all developmental stages need access to blood to develop. They will moult several times before reaching adulthood, at which point they can reproduce.

If you live in an apartment block, it will quickly spread to neighbouring properties through wall cavities. We have been called to infestations that have been ignored for a long period of time and the only solution was to remove and destroy the furniture. They had simply become too infested, too contaminated, to be saved.

Read a case study (with video footage) showing the sort of problems people can have if they ignore a bed bug problem.

As Larry Kessler said, this isn’t a job for “do-it-yourselfers.” Bed bugs have become increasingly resistant to insecticides, in part because DIYers have used the wrong insecticides or the wrong amounts.

We now use a combined approach, including an environmentally friendly method, to create a solution that is highly effective without using excessive amounts of harmful chemicals.

Prevention over cure

Looking to next year, I see there are already holiday advertisements on the television. Against the backdrop of a cost-of-living-crisis, it can be very tempting to start planning that dream holiday as an escape. We all need something to look forward to during the darker months, but what I would say is that next year make sure you take the right preventative approach to avoid any unwanted hitchhikers coming home with you.

This article on the Daily Mail website has some good advice on what to do when you go on holiday.

Cleankill Pest Control offers a range of professional and cost-effective solutions to help homeowners and businesses stay pest-free. For more information, call 0800 056 5477