Bed bugs: Luton council receives 'alarming number' of calls about infestations

Bed Bug Infestation And Treatment Service. Bugs Extermination
Reports of bed bugs are on the increase in the UK. (Alamy)

A council in England has said it is carrying out an "alarming number" of jobs to get rid of bed bugs.

Luton Council in Bedfordshire has issued guidance on what its residents should do to prepare for a visit from a pest control officer.

It comes amid fears that an outbreak of bed bugs in Paris could be spreading to parts of the UK.

In a statement on its website, Luton Council said: "This national bedbug problem has not missed Luton.

"The Pest Control Service is currently receiving an alarming number of bedbug jobs on a weekly basis.

"Whilst the bed bug is not known to be a carrier of disease, the council does recognise the bed bug as being an obnoxious pest with which to have to share a home and for that reason control in the domestic property is not free.

"However, successful treatment can be a lengthy process and the council does not have limitless resources to counter this pest."

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 9:Sniffer dog Thunder stands ready to be deployed in a cinema to look for the presence of bedbugs on October 9, 2023 in Paris, France. France has seen a resurgence of bedbug sightings in places such as schools, trains and cinemas, sparking a frenzy of activity to detect them and get a grip on the situation.  The blood-sucking insect, cimex lectularius, is increasingly difficult to exterminate because of heightened resistance to products that are used to eradicate them. Officials are equally worried about the impact this might have on the Olympic Games 2024, that Paris hosts in 10-months time, with hundreds of thousands of visitors staying in hotels and other lodgings in and around the city. (Photo by Remon Haazen/Getty Images)
Sniffer dogs being used to detect bed bugs at a cinema in Paris, France. (Getty Images)

People with bed bugs in their home may contact the council to arrange a visit from a pest control officer.

The council said residents should prepare for the treatment by stripping all beds and bed covers and emptying wardrobes, drawers and bookcases.

"The insecticides used in your home will be used properly and safely and the pest control officer will advise you on any further precautions you need to take," the council said.

In France, bed bugs have been reported in schools, cinemas, hospitals and on public transports, with many cases in Paris.

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Professor Robert Smith, an entomologist at the University of Huddersfield, told Yahoo News UK on Tuesday: “Increasing numbers of reports of bed bugs in Luton and elsewhere are likely to reflect widespread media coverage over the last week or so.

"Bed bug infestations have, however, become more common over many years in the UK and across the world. This is probably because of the evolution of resistance to insecticides, and might also be affected by restrictions in availability and use of some insecticides."

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London speaks to members as he attends the London Region Reception on the eve of the Labour Party conference on October 07, 2023 in Liverpool, England. The Labour Leader, introduced by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, meets with attendees and remarks on Labour's plan to get Britain's future back after 13 years of Conservative failure. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the city is taking precautions against the spread of bed bugs. (Getty Images)

Dr Richard Naylor, an entomologist at the University of Sheffield and a trustee at The Bed Bug Foundation, told Yahoo News UK: "Over the past decade we have simultaneously lost several classes of insecticide, on health and environmental grounds, and seen an increase in resistance to the insecticides we have left. So the pest control industry is having to find new ways to control them, such as heat and steam."

London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed that Transport for London (TfL) staff are disinfecting seats on trains and buses every day to halt the spread of bed bugs in the capital.

He told PoliticsJOE: "I know people are worried the bugs in Paris could cause a problem in London and I've been in contact with TfL last week and this weekend, making steps to ensure we don't have that problem.

"Regular cleaning of Tubes and buses, and I'm talking to the Eurostar as well, we have one of the best regimes for cleaning our assets. For a variety of reasons we don't think those issues will arise in London but there will be no complacency from TfL."

What should people do about bed bugs?

Prof Smith said: “Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of because they live for many months and hide in cracks and crevices during the day.

"I avoid unpacking luggage in hotels - I leave my clothes in a zipped suitcase - and never use hotel drawers to reduce the chances of picking up unwanted bugs. Some people store their suitcases in the hotel bathtub.

“Don't panic if you think you have bed bugs. The thought of these bloodsuckers might be unpleasant, but they don't carry or spread any human diseases as far as we know.

Watch: Paris mayor says 'no one is safe' from bed bugs infestation

"Washing bed clothes at a higher temperature or putting sheets in sealed bags in a freezer for a couple of days will kill some of them off."

Dr Naylor said: "When you are travelling, it is worth keeping bed bugs in mind. Keep your bags off the floor and away from the bed.

"Bed bugs mainly forage at night. After feeding, they will look for somewhere to hide. If your bag or jacket is lying on the bed, they may well crawl into it.

"Getting rid of them can be physically demanding and requires good eyesight.

"It is essential to identify all the areas where the bugs are hiding and remove/kill them. If the infestation is already well established then it may be best left to the professionals."