Bed bug callouts up 23% in 2023, figures suggest

Councils saw a 23% increase in bed bug callouts in 2023 compared with the previous year, from 11,819 visits to 14,587, figures suggest.

Callouts for cockroaches increased by 3% over the same period, from 8,455 visits to 8,706, according to a freedom of information (FOI) request by Direct Line home insurance.

Meanwhile, local authority pest controllers made 272,122 visits to homes with rat and mice infestations in 2023.

This was a drop of just under 1% from 274,605 in 2022 – but still equivalent to 745 a day.

The figures suggest the availability of council-operated pest control services is a postcode lottery, with services across the UK varying wildly.

Just 8% of councils which responded to the FOI request provide pest removal services free of charge, while the majority require residents to pay a fee ranging from £10 to £264.

Among the highest charges are in Southwark in London (£226.98), Kirklees in Yorkshire (£210) and Oxford City Council (£264), Direct Line found.

Some councils, including Shetland, Somerset, and Welwyn Hatfield, offer a reduced fee for those on benefits, while others impose a flat rate regardless of circumstances.

The figures show 104 of the 397 councils contacted do not provide a pest control service at all, leaving 26% of Britons to find a private contractor to resolve these issues, the insurer said.

These include large local authorities such as Bradford, Middlesbrough and Chichester Councils.

The average cost of providing pest control services is around £150,000 per council, according to information provided by them.

However Edinburgh invested £603,602 and Liverpool £630,332 in these services in 2023.

In total across 2022 and 2023, local authorities across the UK spent an estimated £44 million tackling rodent infestations.

Rodents can cause significant structural damage to homes by gnawing under floorboards, within stud walls and drywall linings, or by making holes in loft insulation, which can cause condensation and rot in the joists.

If mice and rats chew through plastic pipes it can also lead to damp or flooding, while rodents chewing through electrical cables could cause significant fire risks.

Rodents are also known to carry diseases such as salmonella and listeria, which can spread to humans, particularly if they come into contact with food preparation areas.

Latest hospital admissions data suggests 48 individuals were admitted to hospital in 2022/23 having been bitten by a rat.

Maria Lawrence, product manager for Direct Line home insurance, said: “The public will understandably be squeamish upon learning about the scale of pest problems faced by authorities in the UK, particularly as they can create real issues for people’s health.

“Across the UK there is a huge difference in the costs people face, depending on where they live, with either free services or significant charges to tackle these issues.”

British Pest Control Association chief executive Ian Andrew said: “It’s absolutely vital that householders consider calling in a BPCA member at the first sign of rodent activity.

“Rats are a serious public health pest with rapid breeding cycles, which means an infestation can escalate quickly.

“Failed DIY treatments can make the issue worse, as well as potentially endangering other people or non-target species.”