Page last updated at 23:37 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 00:37 UK

Bed bug infestations 'increasing'

By Cory Allen
BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast

Bed bug
The bed bug tends to breed at a very fast rate

There has been a massive increase in the number of bed bug infestations, according to a survey.

Statistics from councils in London and the Midlands show the rate increased three-fold in the past decade.

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Bed Bugs Limited, which says the insects "breed at a phenomenal rate".

Bed bugs are insects that commonly hide in mattresses and carpets and in the crevices of furniture.

They are a reddish-brown, oval-shaped insect that can grow to a quarter of an inch long.

They cannot fly and survive by sucking blood from a host animal, mainly at night.

There are distinct hotspots in highly populated areas, with lots of multi-occupancy housing where the bugs can easily spread from one household to another.

Bed bugs spread on clothes, bags and in furniture when it is moved.

They do not choose a dirty home over a clean one - all they are interested in is your blood.

Bed bugs are not known to carry diseases, but many people develop an itchy swelling when bitten
Check bed and furniture for black dots, which are bed bug faeces
Check sheets for blood, as feeding bugs can be rolled on and squashed

Microbiologist for Bed Bugs Limited, David Cain, said: "If exposed, anyone can bring them home and quickly have a problem, as they breed at a phenomenal rate."

It is thought that one of the reasons for the rise is increased travelling.

There are corridors of infestations that radiate out from airports like Heathrow and Gatwick, which support the theory that bed bugs have been brought back to this country from countries where they have never been eradicated.

Experts say they are also spread on public transport and short of decontaminating passengers every time they get on a bus, train or plane it would be impossible to stop them spreading.

The advice from Mr Cain is "don't sit down". But the epidemic is not just a British problem.

The World Health Organization says there are infestations in many cities throughout Europe and North America, where bed bugs have been stopped in the past through the use of strong pesticides like DDT, many of which are no longer used.

In April this year the US government hosted its first ever bed bug conference after the insects re-emerged in dormitories, hospitals, shelters and hotels in several cities.

Michael Hann, the Guardian's film and music editor, says his family have been plagued by bed bugs at their home in north London.

His wife and son developed rashes after being bitten.

He said: "We had exterminators come into treat, and after they had gone away I took away my daughter's wooden-framed bed.

"Even leaving aside the dead bed bugs that came out, falling out on to the white sheets I had laid down were, I would say, 40-50 live bed bugs that came out of her bed - all filled with blood."

Print Sponsor

US to tackle resurgent bed bugs
15 Apr 09 |  Americas
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19 Jun 07 |  Northern Ireland
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