Bed bugs

The Great Bed Bug Invasion 

bed bugs on wood

Bed bugs are making the news but are they really newsworthy? 

The pest control industry is not what you’d call sexy, by that what I mean is that you can’t dress it up as anything exciting; you’ve got Bob the Builder with his bright yellow hard hat, Postman Pat with his sidekick cat, and even Ernie the Fastest Milkman in the West with his deadly strawberry flavoured yoghurt had his horse Trigger, but I doubt that you’ll ever see the character “Pete the Pestie” along with his dead rat, kept in his back trouser pocket … ever. 
However, there is one trick up our collective sleeves that the others don’t have and that is our almost Jedi like power of putting the fear of God into people; you’ve heard it all before and call me cynical but it tends to be cyclical, every summer certain companies; generally those that have names which end in ‘KILL’ will bombard you with tales of picnic destroying wasps. Come the winter time the stories are all about rats that grow as large as cats or even bigger if we can squeeze out a bit more fear out of it, and now, because of the bed bug problem in Paris, Project Fear is in full flow and according to the experts, we’re about to be swamped with a plague of bed bugs, all heading here on the 2:30 Eurostar from the Gare du Nord. 
If these experts in pest control are all doom mongering and warning us of the impending French bed bug invasion, why am I saying the opposite? Because its typical of our industry and the media who love to be the first to break the latest scary news story, ask yourself when was the last “good” news that you heard from the media? The hard fact is, fear sells, not just daily newspapers but also in our case, many bed bug treatments. Those making the most noise have the most to gain and that’s always true about any event or situation and not just confined to bed bugs. 
Yeah sure, you’ll hear Pest Technician Nigel the Knowledgeable talking about bed bugs on the radio and he’ll regale you with a juicy horror story which contains a cast of thousands of blood sucking insects and it’ll end with the immortal words “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years of pest control” and you know what? We’ve all got the same story! Whether its about the house of many rats, the wasp nest that was as big as a barrel or a room so overrun with bed bugs it was like a biblical plague, every pest controller will have the same catalogue of hair-raising stories, if you like it’s our one and only ‘super-power’. The ability to scare, or bore, take your pick which, the pants off you with a timely horror story. 
bed covered in bed bugs
bed bugs

Why are people scared of bed bugs? 

bed bugs hiding in a hole
Why then are we suddenly engulfed with all these horror stories about bed bugs? The French get themselves into a bit of pest control bother every now and then, a good example was last year when they had to close all the public parks in Paris because the rat population had gotten out of control and had started attacking people. They have had bed bug problems in the past which received a much lesser degree of coverage than at the present, however there is a small kernel of truth as it would seem that across the UK, bed bug infestations are on the rise generally. 
This fact is nothing to be scared off and shouldn’t get the ridiculous coverage that it gets at the moment, because it can be easily explained. The Country was more or less locked down because of Covid for two years; people just didn’t want to travel and when they were allowed to and felt safe enough to do so, they certainly did. 2022 was the Year of Bon Voyage, around 45 million individual holiday trips were made going out of the country and another 19 million trips were made, coming in to visit. 
Its like a massive social game of musical chairs and its not surprising that along the way, some bed bugs were bought in on some unsuspecting passengers, if 0.5% of holiday makers carried back a bed bug or two then we’d be seeing upwards of 300,000 infestations – that’s a juicy headline right there! But what these rather made up on the spot statistics tell us is that, 99.5% of all tourists had absolutely no problems with bed bugs and that’s hardly the same scary new story is it? 
bed bugs on a headboard
bed bugs

What are the facts about the bed bugs? 

bed bugs in a hole
Let’s not have a list of horror stories but just look at the facts, we’ve had problems with these insects since our early ancestors starting using caves that were inhabited by bats, because this is where the resident bat bugs discovered another hairy mammal species that they could feed from, and that was us.  
Despite being having the name bed bug, they can, and unfortunately do, live in other places where we can spend long periods of time, in fact the Victorians referred to them as wall bugs because of the trend of using cloth wallpaper where they could hide between the seams. Places we gather and spend time in like theatres, airplanes, trains, and buses can all contain their own colonies of bed bugs, from time to time these will hitchhike on unsuspecting carriers because this is how bed bugs move around.  
They have tiny claws on the end of their limbs and will attach themselves to us to get a free ride to destination unknown. 

How do I know if we have bed bugs in our bedroom? 

Bed bugs can be difficult to find but they are not invisible, the problem with them is that they like to find themselves a hiding place that’s usually deep inside a crack or crevice, these are usually inside the bed; divan or a frame bed it doesn’t matter which, and the only way to find them is to dismantle the entire bed. In my experience what usually happens is that my customers report getting bitten several weeks after being back from their holiday, and having not seen any insects, they naturally assume the cause of the bites is down to mosquitoes. Its only after a period of time when the bed bugs have started multiplying and then get spotted that they become aware of the true nature of their problem. 
Bedbugs love a crack, they like to squeeze themselves into a tiny space where they’re pressed in and all sides, when empty of blood their body thickness is around the same as a single sheet of paper so you can see how tiny these cracks are. A good pest controller should know this and this is how we find them; to get into their hidey-hole, they have to defecate their last blood meal so small black stains start to appear where they hide. 
If you think that you may have a bed bug infestation, the best two signs to look out for are – bloodspots and discarded skin casings. Bedbugs only feed on our blood, and because they only interested in the solid matter that makes up our blood, they will immediately excrete the liquid part before feeding again and again. Where they have travelled across bedding or your clothing to find the junction with uncovered skin, you will sometimes see lines of bites which arise from the bedbugs’ feeding session. 
You may also see blood spots randomly on bedding or night clothes, but you will find them concentrated around their hiding places, so be on the lookout for black staining along mattress seams, gaps on headboards and around wooden joints. If you spot a black mark, a quick test to see if it’s a blood spot or not, is to lick your finger and run it over the area, if the spot smears then its from dried blood and that means you probably have bedbugs. 
The other sign to look out for is the discarded skins, these will be found because bed bugs grow as they get older and they need to shed their outer skin in order to do this, so you may find different sized discarded skins which will be a light orangy-brown in colour. Generally, these just drop off where the insect shed and gravity means they’ll be on the floor under the bed and along the top of horizontal surfaces such as supports under the mattress. 

What do I do if I find a bed bug? 

The one thing to do if you find bed bugs, is not to panic! When you were getting bitten and thought “Oh its mosquitos” you weren’t overly concerned, however mosquitos spread disease, even here in the UK whereas bedbugs don’t. Having bedbugs is everyone’s worst nightmare (hence all the media coverage at the moment) and they naturally raise anxiety and cause stress. The very thought of something feeding on you while you’re asleep is going to be difficult to deal but don’t panic, they are easy to get rid of. On holiday I once had to sleep in a hotel bed with bed bugs, it was only for just one night, but I know how distressing that night was. 
The truth is bedbugs are easy to treat, especially in the early stages of an infestation, if left untreated they will become more difficult to eradicate, and this is largely down to their reproductive behaviour. They say that nature always finds a way, and this is true for bed bugs; the female insect doesn’t have a sexual opening, in order to counter this, the male bed bug has a penis that is spear shaped and when they mate the male punches it straight through the females’ abdominal wall, this is called traumatic insemination. But how does this make it harder to treat? 
The male bedbug has a nifty trick to get hold of the ladies, he releases a highly attractive pheromone to lure the females back to his hiding place, but he’s not alone in this as there’s competition to breed and all the males release this pheromone. To avoid crowding, the males move away from each other by just a few inches when releasing their sex pheromone and so you’ll see small clusters of bedbugs running along seams and where any joints are. 
As time passes and the population expands, these groupings move away from the bed into the surrounding furniture, and they’ll gradually fill up all the available space around the bed. Slowly over a period, they will eventually colonise the entire room, moving from the bed into wardrobes, onto walls and up behind pictures, even getting underneath wallpaper and into really unexpected places like electrical sockets. 
bed bugs
bed bug in a hole

Easy bed bug treatments in Maidenhead 

bed bugs on a mattress
Now it’s time for my bed bug horror story, I told you we all have them! I once went to a house that had such a heavy and prolonged bed bug problem that they’d left the bedroom, entered the lounge, crossed the hallway and had even taken up residence in the bathroom. On the bathroom ceiling around the light bulb mount you could see bed bugs peeking out, just waiting for their meal when you came to use the toilet.  
Back in the lounge, if you took a CD case out of the rack and opened it, yep, you guessed it we’re not talking about The Beatles here, they’d be one or two bed bugs lurking inside. This was the most extreme case I’ve ever seen and there’s only one more that comes close to it in over ten years of working across Berkshire. If you catch these insects early enough it shouldn’t be that difficult to treat, the information that’s being pumped out across the media on having to wash all your clothes at high temperatures and remove all the items from bedrooms is pure overload and all part of the medias “Project Fear”. 
We use a combination of high temperature steam that gets applied to as much of the bed as possible, we dismantle what we can and occasionally remove coverings that cannot normally be seen to get deeper into the spaces. Our chemicals are purposed just for bed bugs and we mix these with another chemical that prevents any insect from breathing; this combined approach is highly successful and because these chemicals will go on working for months, a single treatment is often enough for a smaller infestation. 
I’m getting calls for bed bugs which turn out to be woodlice because of the warnings and media hype, this is what I’d call “Bed bug Season” and the situation in regard to the number of treatments being carried out is well within normal levels; there is no need to be concerned, if you suspect that something is wrong look for those blood spots as they are easy to see. 
lots of bed bugs
Tagged as: Bed bugs
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