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London pest control firms report being ‘inundated’ with calls about bedbugs

Pest control firms in London have reported being “inundated” with calls about bedbugs and warned that the spread of the blood-sucking insects is “out of control”.

Tony King, owner of Pied Piper Pest Control, said they had been found in offices and cars, as well as homes.

“We’ve been inundated with calls about bedbugs – we’ve been flat out for at least the last eight or nine months with them,” he told the PA news agency.

He added that there was a “bedbug epidemic in West London”, with flats in Victorian houses being a particular source of cases.

Mr King said he believed the increase was down to international travel opening up following the pandemic.

He added that another problem was that “a lot of people have got bedbugs and are not reporting them”.

David Cain, founder of Bed Bugs Limited, said there had been “exponential growth” in bedbug cases over the last 20 years and that they are now “out of control”.

“The problem is worse now than it’s been since probably the 1930s and 1940s”.

He said the number of bedbug cases he dealt with had increased from around four to five a week in 2007 to 15 to 20 this year.

“They’re not just in people’s beds: they’re on public transport, in doctor’s surgeries, cinemas, restaurants – all over the place.”

Mr Cain described reports of a bedbug infestation in Paris driving an increase in London as a “red herring” created by social media.

“People are still encountering bedbugs in virtually every major city in the world. They’re just not hashtagging them like in Paris.”

Dr Richard Naylor, director at the Bed Bug Foundation, said a search for alternative methods to control bedbugs was underway as “there’s a real problem with insecticide resistance”.

However, he added that there was “very little evidence of them transmitting disease”.

“It’s been shown theoretically in some lab studies that there’s a few things that they can transmit, but it almost never happens.

“The key thing with bedbugs is the mental health impacts which can be really severe. As people who get bedbugs tend to have a lot of shame about it.”

Dr Naylor, who completed a PhD in bedbug ecology at the University of Sheffield, added that this can lead to people becoming “very isolated and sleep deprived”.

He said a good way of avoiding bedbugs is to keep “bags off the bed and away from the bed” when visiting hotels and hospitals.

Transport for London said it is “not aware of any confirmed sightings of bedbugs” on London’s transport network.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are not aware of any confirmed sightings of bedbugs on the transport network in London, but we are not complacent and we continue to closely monitor our network and take all possible precautionary measures.”

They added that cleaning teams working on TfL services are briefed on how to effectively identify any bedbugs and immediately report back if they were to be found.

A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said the council had “not seen any noticeable upturns in bedbug treatment requests” but added that it was “not the only place for people to call” as private pest control companies also operate in the borough.