British homes are facing more bedbug infestations than usual thanks to the hotter summer temperatures, with cities proving to be popular hotspots for the insects.
David Cain, of Bed Bugs Limited pest control, told The Observer people must be “permanently on guard” and even advised people living in cities not to sit down on the buses (or, in London, the Underground) to avoid bringing the bugs into their homes.
The main ways bedbugs infiltrate a home is when a person returns from holiday, has purchased second-hand furniture that’s infested or the bedbugs have migrated from a neighbouring house, according to Natalie Bunday, technical officer for the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).
She advises people who buy second-hand furniture like sofas, beds or chairs to look over them carefully before taking them home. “If a neighbour has a bad [bedbug] problem they can migrate,” she adds. So people in terraced houses, semi-detached properties and flats should be vigilant.
How can you tell if you have a bedbug problem?
Bedbugs are about the size of an apple pip and dark brown in colour, Bunday tells HuffPost UK. If they’ve had a feed, they might be dark red in colouring.
The bugs often hide in cracks and crevices around the bed, so it’s wise to check in the seams of your mattress, as well as on and behind headboards, inside mattress or duvet labels, and also behind and underneath bedside tables.
Bunday recommends keeping an eye out for the bugs themselves, or looking for any tiny blood spots on your sheet or mattress. Bedbug droppings are also a telltale sign you have a problem, which she describes as looking like a fountain pen has been dotted on paper. These droppings will often be smeared onto fabric, mattresses or headboards.
You might also have bites on your body from where they’ve fed. “With bedbug bites, they generally don’t have a tip,” Bunday explains. “Sometimes when you’re bitten by a mosquito you have a white tip on top of the bite, but with bedbugs it tends to be a smooth, red lump.”
They tend to bite people’s shoulders or the ends of their limbs - basically any areas of the body that will hang out of the covers.
How to get rid of them
If you do discover bedbugs it’s imperative you call a pest controller. “There is nothing you can do,” says Bunday. Even if you see one bug on its own, the likelihood is that there will be more - especially if you find it on the bed or headboard.
Typically a pest controller will come and inspect the rooms where the bugs have been found, as well as nearby rooms. This, Bunday says, can take up to three hours. “They will then come up with a treatment plan,” she adds. “This usually involves some form of insecticide.”
Quite often pest controllers use a mixture of methods to attack the problem, rather than just spraying an insecticide. They might use heat, as heating furniture up to 60 degrees has been found to kill the bugs.
If your mattress is covered in bedbugs, it might have to be removed from your home. Even if you do get rid of it, you can’t get a new one until the infestation has been removed, as they’ll simply re-infest the new one.
Freezing things, such as bedsheets and shoes, can also help kill them. “Stick them in the freezer for 48 hours and it kills bedbugs at every life stage,” Bunday explains. “Insecticide doesn’t penetrate their eggs whereas cold and heat kills every life stage.”