The bedbug is becoming a more common problem. The adult is 2-3mm long and often dark brown in colour – the result of it having fed on blood – but light-coloured otherwise. Because of its size and its tendency to hide in crevices, cracks and other small spaces, it can be hard to find but dark pinpricks on linen is a good sign bed bugs are around and you can sometimes find the ‘shell’ they discard as they grow.
They breed faster in warm areas than they do in cooler ones, taking as little as two weeks to mature in conditions that suit them best. They don’t fly but, by hitching a lift on people and their belongings, they’ve been able to travel great distances and cross continents – an adult can survive for many months without consuming a blood meal. It’s said that one way they travel from place to place is by crawling into the charge socket on mobile phones; we keep them next to the bed when we travel, they’re usually warmer than the surroundings and then we bring them home with us and put it next to our own bed.
The harm they do
The bites can irritate (some people suffer swelling) and there’s often ‘spotting’ on bed linen from bedbugs that have been squashed by the person during the night. The social stigma can be an enormous problem while in a hotel, the potential loss of business if an infestation becomes public knowledge can be catastrophic.
If you believe you have bedbugs, everything from power sockets and light switches to the bed frame, mattress and surrounding furniture will need to be carefully and comprehensive checked as they’re adept at hiding in the smallest of gaps.
There are a range of treatment methods; steam, heat and chemical processes all work well and the right solution depends on a number of factors. A spray treatment, for example, will need the room to be cleared of clutter – but this has the risk of simply transferring bedbugs to another room and is best done under professional guidance. Steam treatments are gaining popularity – a steam vapour is applied to harbourages and kills the ‘bugs on contact – and has the advantage of being chemical-free, while a dry heat approach is less intrusive but requires the entire room or rooms and the contents to be raised to around 50oC which may not be practical in some situations.