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The Rise of the Bed Bug

Bed bug

You’ve probably seen the lurid stories about bed bug infestations overtaking Paris and the hysteria that some elements of the press are whipping up about them coming over here. The truth is bed bugs have been with humans since we arrived on the planet. We live an almost symbiotic life, so, while we may wish to not have them, it is their life’s mission to find a way into our homes.

Should we worry about the problems in France?
On one level, yes, because bed bugs are a nasty pest that can have a severe impact on your sleep and mental health. They are hard to spot, unpleasant and very difficult to eradicate. You certainly don’t want them in your home and if you are travelling to France, I would be extra vigilant at the moment.

However, on another level, no. It’s a fallacy to think we don’t already have a major problem with bed bugs and, as many experts have pointed out, London’s problems with bed bugs are probably the same as Paris’s. 

Certainly, as a company, we have seen a 23% increase in call-outs for bed bugs over the last two years and an 18% increase in the last two months (compared to the previous two months). That sounds awful, and for the people affected it is, but the truth is those increases are also off the back of one of the lowest periods for callouts we’ve had in recent years – the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Why was COVID-19 bad for bed bugs?
If you have bed bugs in your home, they have either come from a neighbouring apartment or, more likely, they have hitched a ride on your clothing or in textiles, suitcases or furniture that you’ve brought into your home. Bed bugs can’t fly and they are so small they can’t exactly walk down the high street to find your home. 

COVID-19 was so bad for bed bugs because we were all stuck at home. 25-30 years ago this country was essentially bed bug-free but then we started to travel to more and more exotic places. Backpacking became common and that took us to environments where we came into contact with bed bugs, which we then brought home. 

During lockdown we didn’t travel, we didn’t fly, we didn’t stay in hotels and so consequently, we didn’t move bed bugs between countries and from one home to the next. Then we started going on holiday again and the problem returned. 

Six tips for avoiding a bed bug infestation
I’ve used the word already – vigilance. There isn’t much members of the general public can do to stop them in terms of sprays or nets, so you need to be proactive in stopping them from entering your home in the first place.

1. Hotels – check the headboard for little spots that look like ink and carefully inspect the mattress. Look at corners, crevices and around buttons for signs of faeces or discarded exoskeletons. If in doubt, ask for another room and, while you are at the hotel, make sure your belongings are kept tidy. If possible, use a suitcase stand and don’t keep it on the floor or under the bed. 

At the end of your stay, carefully inspect your bags for hitchhikers. 

2. Student accommodation – this can be particularly prone to infestations. Check your children’s luggage when they return and, since we can be fairly certain they won’t have done all their laundry, take it off of them immediately and wash it on as high a heat as possible. If you are in a hurry, store unchecked luggage/clothing in the bath until you are sure it is pest-free.

3. Second-hand furniture – make sure you inspect this very carefully, especially if it is upholstered. An adult bed bug can survive up to a year without feeding, so just because it’s been in storage doesn’t mean all bed bugs are dead.

4. Inspect and clean – regularly check under furniture, in curtain folds, around electric sockets, etc. and vacuum to remove unwanted visitors. Make sure you immediately discard the contents of the vacuum or they will get out again.

5. Wash bed sheets regularly and use a mattress cover.

6. Choose a metal framed bed – there are fewer places for bed bugs to hide.

How to get rid of bed bugs?
This is a real case of prevention over cure. Over the last few decades, bed bugs have become resistant to many of the insecticides we have at our disposal. Certainly, you should never try to DIY the problem because you won’t harm the bed bugs and: 

  1. Your problem will get worse and could spread to any adjoining houses
  2. You are adding to the resistance problem

Instead, call a professional pest control company. They have a range of solutions available to them that will help to get your home pest-free.

At Cleankill, we use both effective insecticidal and heat treatments. The latter involves placing all affected items into an airtight bubble that is then heated until all of the bed bugs are dead. 

If you need to discuss a bed bug problem, call us on 0800 056 5477