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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Bedbug infestations 'on the rise'
The insects had been almost wiped out
An increase in foreign travel and warmer weather have been blamed for a increase in bedbug infestations throughout Northern Ireland.

The tiny blood-sucking insects were thought to have been virtually eradicated two decades ago.

However, their numbers have been on the rise since 1995.

As the unwelcome guests return in droves, pest-controllers are getting increasing numbers of call-outs from the poshest of hotels to the most frugal of flats.

In the warmer weather between February and October, bedbug call-outs are as high as those for rats and mice.

"We are getting thousands of bedbug call-outs a year. There has been a phenomenal increase over the past decade," a Rentokil spokesman said.

The increase in the pest has led to increasing numbers of people seeking medical help for rashes and skin irritation caused by the bugs.

"When people go to the doctor first they sometimes think they have scabies," he added.

The degree of reaction to the bite varies greatly
For some people it has no effect
Many develop an itchy swelling which may last for weeks
Exceptionally heavy levels of bug feeding have been associated with anaemia

Bedbugs, which measure up to 5mm across, thrive in warm surroundings.

They make their homes around mattress seams, in bed frames, behind headboards or skirting boards, and within furniture and electrical fittings.

Even when deprived of blood, individual bugs can survive a year or more - allowing infestations to persist in empty properties or stored furniture.

When conditions are right, and food is in plentiful supply, numbers can rapidly spiral.

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