Bedbugs: is the threat real? All you need to know

12 October 2023, 12:17

Bed bugs viewed under magnifying glass.
Bed bugs viewed under magnifying glass. Picture: Alamy

By Amelia Frei

Following the infestation during Paris Fashion Week, bed bugs have begun to spread internationally, sparking a wave of concern among Brits.

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Following a suspected sighting on the Tube, Londoners fear that they too will have to chuck out their mattresses and disinfect their homes.

Here is everything you need to know:

Is this really an invasion?

Experts are now saying that alleged sighting of the bed bug on the Victoria Line, viewed by millions, cannot be confirmed as such, and could be a tick or a mite.

However, Transport for London (TfL) officials are continuing to monitor the situation. Speaking at the Labour conference, London mayor Sadiq Khan has assured Londoners that careful measures are being taken to combat a possible infestation. “We don’t think those issues will arise in London, but no complacency from TfL.”

How do they spread?

Bed bugs can breed and spread quickly. The bugs don’t have wings but have a tendency to latch on to people, spreading them quickly from place to place. Female bed bugs lay between five to seven eggs per week.

Fortunately, experts at Bed Kingdom have explained how to spot bed bugs and tips to get rid of them from your home.

How to spot bed bugs?

Unusual smell - an early sign of bed bugs could be an untraceable musty smell in your bedroom. This is caused by the alarm pheromones that bed bugs emit when feeling under threat.

Bites – another early sign of bed bugs is waking up with new bites – red and itchy - on your body. These typically appear on one’s arms and legs in clusters of a few bites. DISCLAIMER – while they don’t tend to be dangerous, you might be allergic, in which case you’ll experience extreme itching, blisters, swelling, or a fever. In such cases, seek help from a medical professional.

Blood stains - bed bugs that have finished feeding can leak out blood when squashed (for example, if you roll over in bed). If you detect any small dots of blood on you or your sheets and there is no clear source like a scab, this could likely be bedbugs.

Dark, brown marks - Bed bug droppings make dark marks similar in size to the tip of a pen, which can appear on sheets, furniture, and walls. They also exude a faint rusty scent.

Eggs - Bed bug eggs - about the size of a small rice grain – can be found if you look closely around your bedroom.

Shell casings - the shell casings that bed bugs shed can also be an early indication of an infestation. They vary in size but are yellow and translucent. They can usually be spotted in cracks, folds and crevices of the bedroom.

Live bed bugs - Live bed bugs are the most difficult to spot, as they find small, dark places to hide. In the case of a severe infestation, however, they might be easier to spot. Adult bed bugs are about 4-5mm long, while bed bug nymphs start at just 1mm.

How to get rid of them?

Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of, particularly in severe cases of infestation.

First and foremost, it is recommended that you contact your local council or a pest control service to make sure the bed bugs are completely eradicated from your bedroom.

However, here are some steps you can take personally to ease your mind:

Using a flashlight or magnifying glass, identify where they are around the room.

Take care to wash all of your infested bedding on a hot wash, and with hot, half-hour tumble dry. For items that cannot be washed, place them in the freezer for three to four days in plastic bags.

It can be difficult to completely get rid of bed bugs, especially with a severe infestation, so it’s advised to contact the council or a pest control service to ensure they’re no longer taking over your bedroom. However, there are some steps you can take yourself to put your mind at ease.

Bed bug sprays can be applied to mattresses and furniture before vacuuming. Note: insecticides are not recommended for inside use as some contain harmful chemicals.

Make sure you clear any rubbish from your bedroom, then thoroughly vacuum the cleared room.

“Since the bed bug crisis began in Paris, people across the globe are anxious that these insects will soon take over their home. Knowing the signs of bed bugs is now more important then ever so that you can get back to relaxing quickly and avoid a more complicated process of removing them," said a spokesman from Bed Kingdom.