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UPDATED: Bed bugs, an increasingly common problem in rentals...

Bedbug Pest Control:

There's been an explosion in the incidence of bed bugs that Rentokil blames on the bloodsucking creatures hiding in second-hand furniture.

Rentokil says it has seen a 65pc increase in bed bug infestations in Britain this year, blaming the rise in the increasing popularity of furniture recycling, particularly in rentals, and also because of a post-pandemic resurgence in travel, Airbnb and hotel stays.

Professor James Logan, from the London School of Tropical Medicine, told The Daily Telegraph that more people buying used furniture from websites including eBay and Facebook Marketplace is spreading bedbugs.

The small brown bugs deposit themselves unseen in the nooks and crannies of beds, chairs and couches before they creep out at night, biting their prey, their unsuspecting human victims. These bites result in nasty swollen sores and rashes and though they rarely spread diseases, they can cause infections.

The most common type of bed bug in the UK, cimex lectularius (main image), can also feed on household pets. Rodents and birds have been known as carriers of these nasty bugs.

Severe infestations will lodge themselves in floorboards, electrical sockets and even electrical items such as TV sets and stereo systems - they will find anywhere to hide that's warm and dry.

Prof Logan said that Airbnb style travel and tourism, added to climate change may also be behind the dramatic increase seen in Britain. He added:

“Obviously we probably had a bit of a lull during Covid but with things starting to get back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of travel, it’s very likely that there will be bed bugs on the move much more again and travelling in people’s suitcases.”

A recent phenomenon in Britain

Most people in Britain have never seen one or even heard of anyone reporting a bed bug infestation, though now that seems to be changing, they may be a relatively recent phenomenon, but they are catching up now.

Bed bug infestations were common in the United States beforeWorld War II, however, with improvements in hygiene and chemical treatments inthe 1940s and ‘50s, they were virtually eliminated there.

But like all the types of insects that have existed since ancient times, they are very persistent and survive in the most hostile environments, eventually adapting and thriving to adverse conditions, but they like warmth best. They commonly exist in most parts of the world: Africa, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe, and in Britain they have become more common, the warming weather being one factor, though international travel, Airbnb and more hotel stays are others.

These creatures are tiny brownish, flattened insects that feed solely on the blood of mammals, including humans, the most common types preferring feeding on humans; they bite all warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds and rodents.

Night hawks

They are mostly active at night, preferring to hide awayfrom daylight but remain close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodiesenable them to fit into the tiniest crevices in floors and beds. Signs they arepresent are hatched and un-hatched eggs and dark spotting stains, which is theirdried excrement.

They usually bite people at night while they are sleeping, piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they withdraw blood. As the bite is painless, the person seldom realises they are being bitten, but some may develop an itchy red sore or welt within a day or so of the bite, though for some there’s no reaction at all.

Eradication is a challenge

The creatures are challenging to eradicate, to say the least. It is unlikely that a DIY solution to eradication will be successful, so as soon as an infestation is suspected pest control professionals should be called in before the infestation becomes too extensive.

Since they are able to hide in so many different places,inspections must be very thorough indeed and total elimination is not always a certain.However, an experienced pest controller will know where to look for bed bugs, andwill have the equipment necessary to give the best chance of their disposalfirst time.

All none essential fabric furniture should be removed, and it may be necessary to dispose of and replace beds and chairs. Disposing of the furniture requires great care if the infestation is not to be spread, and once the item in question has been removed it should be burned.

If an infestation is spotted the sooner it is treated the better as it will be much more difficult to irradiate once it spreads and the bugs become well established – the infestations can become very large.

Landlords and bedbugs

As with any insect or rodent infestation there’s always the question of who is responsible when a property is tenanted - tenant or landlord?

Ideally the tenancy agreement should set out clearly the circumstances in which the tenant can be held responsible for infestations of these sorts of creatures or rodents such as mice and rates.

However, nothing is cut and dried with this and unless it can clearly be shown that tenants have been responsible for the matter, a policy of goodwill should be adopted. It is perhaps preferable that the landlord takes on the responsibility – after all it’s in their long-term interests.

Dealing with the problem comprehensively my mean the tenants have to move into alternative accommodation temporarily, so the landlord should contact their insurers – good landlord’s policies should cover this.

How to remove bedbugs

To rid yourself of a bedbug infestation is not easy, you really need to use a pest control professional such as rentokil, but there are certain things you can do in the meantime to control the outbreak. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Wash all bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting.
  • Remove and replace cushions and pillows.
  • Put other items that can't be washed in the dryer and run it on high for 30 minutes or more.
  • Replace mattresses if you can, otherwise: take a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove any bedbugs and then thoroughly vacuum.
  • Repeatedly vacuum beds and the areas them around them
  • Vacuum floor boards and floor coverings thoroughly.
  • Dispose of the vacuum cleaner waste dust in a sealed plastic bag and place it in the bin outdoors right away.
  • Put a tightly woven, zippered cover or sealed polyethene cover on mattresses or to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping.
  • Bedbugs can live several months without food, so keep cover on mattress for at least a year.
  • Repair cracks in plaster, glue down peeling wallpaper, and seal holes and wide joints in floor boards.
  • Remove all unnecessary clutter from lounges and bedrooms and move beds away from walls and other furniture.

[Image: the common bed bug Cimex lectularius]


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