Until a few years ago, bedbugs were unusual in the developed world. In 2010 the Daily Mail ran an article about their return, highlighting a ‘serious infestation’ in New York. An international survey the same year, conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, suggested the world was on the verge of a ‘bedbug pandemic.’
The number of British homes infested shot up by more than 25% through 2009 alone. Seven years later, in 2016, the insects are thought to be a bigger problem than at any time since World War Two, and some have started to become resistant to common insecticides.
The warmer south of England tends to be more prone to bedbugs, which is why our Kent pest control and London teams are seeing more of them. Here’s what you need to know about bed bugs, and what to do about them.
What are bedbugs?
Bedbugs, Latin name Cimex lectularius, are apple pip-sized blood-sucking insects that live in and around your bed. They’re attracted to humans thanks to our body heat, and the carbon dioxide we give off, crawling out of hiding at night to feast on our blood, feeding for around 15 minutes at a time.
Adult bedbugs are oval, reddish, brownish or yellowish in colour, flat in profile and around 5mm long. The
females lay as many as 300 eggs during their life, tiny white, sticky specks that are very hard to see. 10 days later the eggs hatch into tiny straw-coloured insects, and around 6-8 weeks later they’re fully mature. As they grow they shed their skins, which you can see on your bed clothes. Young bedbugs need blood to mature, but adults can live as long as a year without any food at all.
How come they’re on the increase?
Most experts put the recent boom in bed bugs down to climate change. This year the surface temperature of our planet is set to be the highest since records began. The insects like warm weather, and heat accelerates their lifecycle. At 64° it takes around four months for an egg to mature into an adult insect. Ramp the heat up to 80° and it only takes 6 weeks. Add the fact that summer is when most humans take their holidays, bringing the tiny tourists back home in our luggage, and you can understand why they’re more of an issue in Britain right now than any time in living memory.
Infestation doesn’t mean your home or premises is dirty!
Bedbugs are not attracted to dirt. An infestation isn’t a sign of an unclean home or premises. They are found all over the place, in all sorts of housing and commercial premises like hotels and hospitals, but tend to be the most common in places with a shifting human population.
How do you know you’ve got bedbugs?
- Itchy skin rashes or red bumps
- Black spots of bedbug poop in your bed
- Crispy brown bedbug shells in your bed, which they shed as they grow
- Blood spots on the sheets
- A strange musty smell with undertones of marzipan/almond, which they give off when disturbed
How they spread
Bedbugs don’t fly, but they can crawl. It takes around seven weeks to move from one room to infest other areas. They are also transported in people’s luggage, clothing, furniture and bedding, moving from one building to the next.
Are bed bug bites poisonous or dangerous?
Bed bug bites are not known to transmit disease or pose any serious medical risk. Sometimes you don’t even notice being bitten – it depends on how you react to insect bites. Some people suffer from itchy and unsightly mosquito-like bites, which appear 15-30 minutes after being bitten and hang around for several days, usually on the face, neck, hand or arm.
How can you tell you’ve been bitten by a bed bug? Mosquito bites tend to be random, but bedbug bites often appear in straight lines.
How to get rid of bedbugs
It can be extremely difficult to get rid of a bedbug infestation. You can take steps yourself to avoid them in the first place, by keeping bedrooms clean and tidy, but once you’ve been infested it’s best to get a professional pest control firm on the case to ensure you get rid of all the bugs.
- Make sure your pest control company is a member of the British Pest Control Association
- Pest controllers can usually get rid of the bugs with two treatments
- A technician does a thorough inspection, then uses either an insecticide, a steamer or rapid freeze technology to kill them
Spray insecticides are common. Some exterminators also heat the infested room to above 50 degrees Celsius, which kills the insects instantly. It also helps to freeze infested items like beds and bedding for a few days. If an infestation is really bad, you will probably have to throw the mattress, the bedding and even the bed itself away, as well as getting rid of any other bedroom furniture in which the insects hide.
Can you treat bedbugs yourself?
You can do it yourself, but it isn’t recommended because you probably won’t get rid of them all, and they’ll soon increase in numbers again. Here are a few things you can do:
- Wash infected sheets, duvets and pillows at 60C
- Put infested bedding in a hot tumble drier for half an hour
- Dismantle all your bedroom furniture and use a hoover to suck up any insects you spot
- Dispose of the contents of the hoover bag in a sealed bag so the insects can’t escape
- Kill of any strays using a special bed bug insecticide – but bear in mind they might be immune to it
Do you need medical treatment for bedbug bites?
You won’t need treatment unless you’re allergic or come out in red lumps. Most people are fine. If you develop very itchy bumps a mild steroid cream might help, as can antihistamine tablets. With or without medicines, your skin should recover within a week. A small number of people suffer from a nasty rash of fluid-filled blisters. If they get infected through scratching, you might need a course of antibiotics.
Bedbug issues? Call in the experts
Need pest control in Gravesend, any other part of Kent or London itself? Give us a call or email us for a free survey and free, no-obligation quote.