What can you do about bed bugs?

It’s hard to escape bed bug stories at the moment. Ever since France began reporting infestations, certain elements of the press have been publishing stories about the threat to the UK. Of course, as pest control professionals we know the truth – bed bugs are already here and have been for years.

While you will see some national pest control companies jumping on the bandwagon claiming this is an exceptional year, there has always been an increase at this time of year. I don’t know whether it is because people have just returned from holiday, turned on their heating systems or found the urge to buy second-hand furniture too irresistible, but we always see an increase in Autumn, and this year is no different.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where the bed bugs come from, if you have an infestation it is horrible.

A short history of bed bugs
They are old; far older than us. Their first ancestor seems to have existed 115 million years ago, before bats (who were assumed to be their first host). Even the common bed bug, as we know it, appeared roughly 40 million years before our earliest hominid ancestors. Aristotle and Pliny the Elder mentioned them, and their use has been discussed ever since. The 18th-century French naturalist Jean-Étienne Guettard even suggested they could be a cure for hysteria.

Bed bugs have been a common problem throughout human history but, by the second half of the 20th century, they were largely eradicated in first-world countries. In recent years, however, this decline has reversed because many pesticides are no longer effective and we now regularly travel to countries with a problem.

How do bed bugs get into my house?
The simple answer is you bring them in. They can’t fly and they can’t walk between houses unless there is a connecting wall with holes in it.

The most common sources of infestation are:

  • Holidays
  • Student accommodation
  • Second-hand clothing/furniture
  • Next door – if you live in an apartment block and the neighbour’s flat has an infestation

How will I know I have bed bugs?
If you don’t see them, and you may well see them if the infestation is bad enough, the most common first indication of an infestation is bites on exposed skin that appear during the night. These are red and can be itchy.

You might also notice tiny white eggs in the crevices of mattress and furniture, tiny black spots of dried poo on furnishings, blood spots from squashed bugs, mottled bedbug shells and an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom or home.

Are they dangerous?
The good news is they don’t transmit diseases, so while they may creep you out and give you a disturbed night’s sleep which is bad for your mental health, they will not make you physically ill.

What can I do about bed bugs?
This is difficult. DIY isn’t really an option because they are now resistant to many insecticides. In fact, if you leave an infestation or try to deal with it using DIY treatments, the chances are you are just going to make the problem worse.

Prevention is better than cure and there are things you can do to stop an infestation occurring:

  • Always wash bedding and clothing on a high heat to kill eggs
  • When you come back from holiday, put your luggage into the bath to stop the bugs migrating into your bed or wardrobe and then wash everything as quickly as possible
  • If you suspect bed bugs may be in a piece of material, put it in a bag and freeze for three or more days
  • Regular housecleaning will help to remove eggs, etc. and it will also mean you spot a problem early, making it easier to deal with
  • Carefully inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home. An adult bed bug can survive for around a year without food, so an old chair might not be safe even if it is a terrific bargain

The reality is, if you’ve got bed bugs you need a professional pest control service. Your bed might just be the tip of the iceberg, and a professional technician will not only have access to the right treatments for your home but also the knowledge to ensure they are all eradicated.

While all pest control companies should be able to deal with a bed bug problem, make sure you choose one that understands the domestic setting. Many companies focus mainly on the commercial sector and are not experts in working in people’s homes. You may also find you are paying an unnecessary premium for the name on the van!

LNPS has considerable experience in dealing with bed bugs in the homes of residents in London and the Home Counties. If you suspect you have a problem, call us on 020 8430 4133.

Download our bed bug leaflet.