Bed bugs are in the news but they aren’t news
Posted on 17th October 2023 at 08:30
Bed bugs are in the news but they aren’t news
Bed bugs are all over the news at the moment, Paris is bursting at the seams with them and apparently, they’re on the Eurostar heading here right now. Well, that’s not news, its just facts and hysteria wrapped up together as clickbait and a way for many pest control companies to drive up their prices.
Why do I say this? Because sadly its true and something that we in the industry do time and time again to sell services at a premium price. Ok if you doubt me, ask yourself this question, how do you make pest control sexy?
Its not exactly what you’d call an industry that’s synonymous with excitement or thrills; we’re not astronauts or racing car drivers but there’s one thing we can do that they can’t and that’s to put the fear of God into you. We do this by writing and publishing articles on mutant rats the size of cats, invasive killer hornets and of course our friends … bed bugs.
Whenever you read one of these articles or hear an expert on local radio, its Mr X from Local Pest Control Experts and they’ll tell you all these horror stories about pests, whether its rats or bed bugs it really doesn’t matter and one thing you’ll notice about this information – a complete lack of of facts. What I mean is there’s not any data and almost no evidence to collaborate the stories being told, they’re just that, nothing more than stories.
Anyone who’s been in this industry for a few years or more will have a library of horror stories with which they can regale others with, I know because I do it all the time. As I said its not a very sexy job but I go places and into situations that you can only imagine – almost every day!
With some pest species you have a defined season, for example you’d expect to be treating wasps in the summer and autumn and not in the winter, when you think about bed bugs when would you expect ‘our’ season? Its after periods in late spring and the end of summer when people come back from their holidays.
Last year in the UK we made 45 and a half million overseas trips on holiday, on top of that overseas visitors to the country ran at 19 million, when you think about the population of the UK, its like musical chairs. The shift in and out of the country will exceed the total amount of people that live here day to day, if only a small percentage of people bring back unwanted holiday souvenirs, you can see how bed bugs become headline news.
So what are the facts about bed bugs?
Bed bugs aren’t invisible nor are they indestructible, we have had problems with these insects since our early ancestors starting using caves, where bat bugs discovered another mammal species that they could feed from.
Despite being called bed bugs, they can, and unfortunately do, live in other places where we spend time. Theatre seats, airplanes, trains, and buses can all host colonies of bed bugs that will hitchhike on unsuspecting carriers. In a domestic setting the two places that I usually find bed bugs are beds (obviously) and sofas.
How do I know if we have bed bugs?
As I said they’re not invisible but, and this is the problem with them, they like to hide away in cracks and crevices where they can be really difficult to find. Many of my customers report getting bites for weeks and not seeing any culprits, so they naturally assume its mosquitoes.
Bed bugs like to squeeze into a tiny space (a bit like Mini owners) and when you understand that their body thickness is around the same as a single sheet of paper, these gaps are going to be difficult to examine.
If you think that you have a bed bug infestation, the best two give aways are – bloodspots and skin casings. These insects will bite you and fill themselves up with blood, because they only want the solid particles that makes up our blood, they immediately excrete the liquid and bite again. This can on occasion lead to telltale lines of bites where they have crossed bedding or clothing to find the junction with uncovered skin.
They’ll also defecate around their hiding places so look for black staining along seams and around wooden joints, a quick test if you see a black spot is to lick your finger and run it over the area, don’t go oooh as its your blood, if it runs then that is dried blood and you have bed bugs.
Bearing in mind that bed bugs get larger as they get older, they need to shed their outer skin in order to do this and you may find small, discarded skins which are a light orangy-brown in colour, you’ll find these on the carpet or solid flooring under the bed and along horizontal surfaces under the mattress.
The one thing that you must do if you find bed bugs, is not to panic! They don’t transmit disease, unlike the mosquitoes which everyone is happy to have and as I said, despite the industry warnings, they are easy to treat, especially in the early stage of an infestation. Bed bugs if left untreated will become harder to eradicate due to their reproductive behaviour; female bed bugs don’t have a sexual opening as such, to counter this the male bed bugs’ penis is shaped like a spear which they punch straight through the abdominal wall, I could make a joke about the lack of foreplay but I won’t.
To get females to come to the males, they release an attractant to lure them into their hiding place, as with most creatures there is competition to breed so the males move away from each other by just a few inches at first. The bed bugs start to form into clusters and as these gradually fill up the available space in and around the bed where the host (that’s you by the way) can be found, until finally they spread into other areas.
Now for a horror story, I have found houses to be infested so badly, the bed rooms were so overrun with them that they’re even in the bathroom around the light bulb mount you could see bed bugs; open a CD case in the lounge and yes, bed bugs were inside. This was an extreme case and I’ve only seen two like this in over ten years of working in Reading, so if you catch these insects early enough, the information being given out on washing all your clothes, removing all items from bedrooms is pure over load and all part of “project fear”.
Bed bugs are in the news but they aren’t news, remember, fear sells!
Tagged as: Bed bugs
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