Scientists react to the news of a possible Bedbug outbreak in the UK.
Prof James Logan, Professor of Medical Entomology and Director of Arctech Innovation, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:
What do you think of reports of bed bugs from Luton?
“I haven’t seen any scientific evidence but it’s not surprising to hear reports like this. Bed bugs are on the increase globally.”
Are bed bugs on the rise in the UK?
“Yes – it appears we are seeing year-on-year increases in callouts of pest control companies to bed bug infestations.”
Why are there more reports of bed bugs?
“Bed bugs are becoming resistant to insecticides that we normally use to kill them. We are also seeing increasing travel which helps them to spread.”
What can people do to prevent bed bugs?
“Be wary when staying in hotels or other accommodation. Check reviews before you go. Keep luggage off the floor and zipped up. Hang clothes in the wardrobe – avoid the drawers. Don’t leave clothing on the floor. If you see bed bugs or suspect them, ask to move rooms, or at worst, move hotels. When you get home if you think you stayed somewhere with bedbugs, the best thing to do is to unpack your bag outside in the garden and you can also bag up your clothes and stick them in the freezer for a few days or wash them at a very high temperature.”
What should they do if they have bed bugs?
“If you are unlucky enough to have bedbugs, the best thing to do is to call a pest controller as soon as possible. It is really important that you know that you have bedbugs very quickly because the earlier you catch them the easier it is to treat an infestation. Do not try and treat the infestation yourself because it’s likely to feel the only thing you can do really is to call a pest controller, get an expert in to sort the problem out.”
Are we going to hear more reports in the UK?
“It is very likely that we are going to hear about more infestations in the UK because bedbugs are increasing globally.”
Anything else important to add?
“It’s really important to know that the infestation is there as quickly as possible. One solution to this is to use a trap which contains a pheromone such as BugScents, which allows you to detect early investigations effectively, so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.”
Prof Robert Smith, Professor Emeritus, University of Huddersfield, said:
“Increasing numbers of reports of bed bugs (in Luton and elsewhere) are likely to reflect widespread media coverage over the last week or so. Bed bug infestations have, however, become more common over many years in the UK and across the world. This is probably because of the evolution of resistance to insecticides, and might also be affected by restrictions in availability and use of some insecticides.
“Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of because they live for many months and hide in cracks and crevices during the day. I avoid unpacking luggage in hotels (I leave my clothes in a zipped suitcase) and never use hotel drawers to reduce the chances of picking up unwanted bugs. Some people store their suitcases in the hotel bathtub.
“Don’t panic if you think you have bed bugs! The thought of these bloodsuckers might be unpleasant, but they don’t carry or spread any human diseases as far as we know. The NHS website has good advice about what to look for and what to do. Washing bed clothes at a higher temperature or putting sheets in sealed bags in a freezer for a couple of days will kill some of them off. Regular vacuum cleaning of mattresses and the crevices in bedrooms will help. You are likely to need professional help from your local council or pest-control company, however, if you want to eliminate them completely.”
Prof James Logan: “co-founded Arctech Innovation – a spin out from the LSHTM”
Prof Robert Smith: I have no personal or financial interests to declare. I have previously been an independent member and deputy chair of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides