How Do Bed Bugs Spread Uk

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

Check if it’s bedbugs

Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo

Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

Signs of bedbugs include:

  • bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
  • spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
  • small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)

Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.

Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo

Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.

How you can treat bedbug bites

Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.

Things you can do include:

  • putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
  • antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
  • the redness around the bites is spreading

You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

How to get rid of bedbugs

contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides

wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)

clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

do not keep clutter around your bed

do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022

How to get rid of bed bugs – the safe and easy way

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Follow our simple guide on how to get rid of bed bugs at home and make sure they don’t return

If you’re waking up with rows of red itchy bites, especially on your face, neck, shoulders and limbs you may be sleeping with bed bugs. Want to learn how to get rid of bed bugs? Here’s our simple guide…

What are bed bugs?

Image credit: David Brittain

Bed bugs are small, brown and flat blood-sucking insects that hide and breed in cracks and crevices in and around your bed. They emerge at night to feed on a sleeping host, attracted by their body heat and the carbon dioxide they exhale.

Bed bugs aren’t known to spread diseases. Their bite isn’t harmful to humans and although some people can develop an adverse skin reaction to bed bug bites, some don’t react at all. However just knowing they’re there, waiting for you, can be an unsettling thought.

A bed bug infestation doesn’t mean you have a dirty home and you’re not to blame either – the cheeky little pests can end up in your adode and quickly multiply after hitching a ride in luggage, or in pre-used furniture. They’re also common in multi-occupancy buildings, such as hotels and blocks of flats where they can easily spread from room to room by crawling through pipes and cracks in the walls.

How to spot bed bugs

Image credit: David Giles

Adult bed bugs measure around 6mm across and their elongated eggs and larvae are much smaller so they can be hard to detect. They don’t fly or jump but can crawl quickly and are experts at hiding.

Inspect your mattress, bed frame and surrounding sleeping area for signs of bed bugs, looking for clusters of brown spots – their droppings, and discarded larvae shells. You might also be able to find blood spots on your bedding and smell the musty scent given off by adult bed bugs.

Always check second-hand furniture for bed bugs before you bring any into your home. If you’re travelling, check the hotel beds and headboards too and store your suitcase off the floor on a luggage rack to avoid them climbing onboard.

How to get rid of bed bugs

If you have bed bugs at home, take immediate action to avoid an infestation. It’s best to contact your local council who may treat your home for free, or a pest control company, preferably a member of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) as they are pros at getting rid of stubborn bed bug infestations and have access to the most effective insecticides and equipment available.

DIY guide to getting rid of bed bugs

We recommend getting professional help to get rid of bed bugs as these pests are notoriously hard to eradicate, due to their immunity to some household insecticides. Plus an infestation can easily recur if any eggs are missed, but if you want to try DIY pest control, take these measures:

1. Spot the infestation

Completely strip your bed and put the infested bed linen, as well as pyjamas and soft toys straight into a 50°C – 60°C wash, if possible. Then tumble dry the items on the hottest setting for 30 minutes as the heat will kill any remaining bed bugs and their eggs. Placing bagged-up laundry in the freezer for three days will also kill the pests.

2. Inspect the surrounding area

Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

Dismantle your bed furniture and thoroughly inspect it along with your mattress and any other potential hiding places around the bed such as carpets, behind bedside tables and cracks in walls (which will need to be sealed) then use a vacuum cleaner with a plastic crevice nozzle attachment to suck up the bed bugs, including their eggs, larvae and droppings. Throw away the vacuum cleaner bag and its contents in a sealed bin liner, immediately. A heavily-infested mattress will need to be disposed of safely and swapped for a new one.

3. Check the whole house

The little pests can crawl quite far, so you should go over the whole room (if not your entire home) with a fine-toothed comb, looking under furniture, inside drawers, behind peeling wallpaper – everywhere, for signs of them.

4. Stop them in their tracks

Next use a special bed bugs insecticide, following the manufacturer’s instructions, to treat all infested areas and kill any remaining bed bugs.

5. Use a chemical free cleaner

Image credit: Vax

Steam cleaning is chemical free and instantly kills bed bugs and their eggs.

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

Bed bug signs

It isn’t always easy to identify bed bugs or know there’s a problem. They remain hidden in tiny cracks and crevices during the daytime. Often the first sign of bed bugs is bites that appear on your body after you wake up.

Common Signs of Bed Bugs

It’s difficult to confirm presence of bed bugs just by looking at your bites.

Look for these clues to their presence:

  • Dark/black stains- on the mattress and surrounding area from bed bug excreta.
  • Sweet scent- An unpleasant, sweet, sickly scent.
  • Small dark spots- Small dark blood spots on bedding known as ‘faecal pellets’.
  • Live insects- despite being small (adult are only 4-5mm long) it’s possible to spot live bed bugs and shed skins.

Bed bugs can be difficult and costly to control. It’s important to act as soon as you have noticed evidence of activity.

Do You Think You Have Bed Bugs?

Don’t waste time, book a treatment now with one of our experts.

Blood Spots by Bed Bugs

If you’ve started to notice miniature blood stains appearing on your bedding, then there’s a possibility you could be suffering from a bed bug infestation. Please note that there are many reasons why blood spots may display on bedding – however, if combined with other major signs of bed bugs then it is a clear indication of an infestation.
The sting of a bed bug, in most cases is usually painless; which is why it does take a while before you notice any of the other more visual symptoms. These blood spots will usually appear in a linear, row-like arrangement due to the fact that bed bugs avoid prolonged migration when feeding on the blood vessels.

Click to watch live image of a bed bug nymph feeding on a host.

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Bed Bug Traces

A further indicator of a bed bug infestation is small-scale black spots appearing on walkways, in their hiding places and during the actual feeding process. The average size of their faecal excrement is roughly between 0.5 and 1.0 mm. There can be collections of these faecal pellets found in common areas such as mattresses, bed frames and even behind wallpapers.

Click to watch live image of adult bed bug defecating.

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Locating Bed Bugs

Although your bed is the first place to check, bed bugs can also hide in furniture and furnishings including:

  • bed frames and headboard crevices
  • mattress seams
  • carpets and underlay
  • skirting boards
  • between timber floorboards
  • in cracked or broken plaster, behind peeling wallpaper
  • inside electrical sockets and fittings
  • drawers and cupboards
  • wardrobes
  • bedside cabinets

Bed bugs are usually found in bedrooms and sleeping areas because they need easy access to a bloodmeal at night. They are also attracted to bodyheat and carbon dioxide from our breath.

Have you noticed these signs?

An inspection by Rentokil will help to confirm a problem and enable our Technicians to offer the best solution using industry leading bed bug treatments.

Our Entotherm Heat Treatment solution is ideal for treating an entire room or specific items found with an infestation.

How Do Bed Bugs Spread?

They’re usually carried into a home or business on clothing, or in luggage or furniture. Given their size, bed bugs are well adapted to travel.

Second hand / vintage furniture

  • Second hand furniture can also harbour bed bugs. Carefully inspect for signs of infestation before taking items home, especially cracks and crevices. Rentokil can treat items before you bring them into your home.

Staying away in an overnight accommodation

Spending a night in a hotel with an infestation is the most common way of spreading bed bugs.

  • Check for blood stains on bed linen and other common signs in your hotel room when you arrive.
  • Inform hotel management if you have suspicions.
  • It may be necessary to launder, fumigate or treat belongings before returning home to ensure they are pest-free.

Visiting friends and neighbours

If your home has bed bugs, don’t risk spreading them by taking clothes, suitcases or furniture to hotels or people’s homes.

Established bed bug infestations can migrate to adjoining properties by crawling through wall or floor cavities. If you live in a flat, apartment or terraced house, inform your neighbours and other tenants to take action quickly.

How Common are Bed Bugs in the UK Today?

The history of bed bugs in the UK begins a little while before WWII. TheCimex lectulariusis the type of bed bug that is native to Europe and the UK. Bed bugs weren’t common to the UK until the 1930s and since then the problem has grown.

In fact, immediately after WWII, it’s reported that nearly 30% of British homes were infested with these wicked bugs. Such a drastic increase in their population was attributed to the heating systems used in homes which created more pleasant living conditions for them to thrive in.

In 2017, The Sun published an article saying that “…the numbers of bed bugs have tripled in the past five years.” This is not only a problem because it sounds like an almost epidemic level of bed bugs in the country, but also because over time bed bugs have become resistant to many of the pesticides once used to eradicate them in all of their life stages.

Where do bed bugs come from?

The origin of bed bugs dates back hundreds of years BC, back when our ancestors lived in caves.The bugs originally were parasites that used bats for hosts and lived with them inside caves. Then people came into the caves and they turned into another fantastic host for the bugs to feed on.With time, people came out of the cave, moved to other continents and bed bugs hitchhiked and moved too. They spread through Europe and Asia, and then to the rest of the continents.

But where do they come from when they infest your home is another matter:

  • If you live in a block of flats, this increases your chances of getting them in your home if one flat has them already. They can travel from flat to flat.
  • Another way they can turn up in your home is if they are brought inside. A friend or a family member can bring them if they were in an infested place before that. Bed bugs will hitchhike on clothes, bags, shoes. The worst thing is that even one female bug can create an entire infestation in your house.
  • Bed bugs can also be brought into your home after your vacation or work trip. If you stay in an infested hotel room, you are almost 100% guaranteed to bring them back home.
  • They can also enter your home with the purchase of second-hand furniture. Bed bugs don’t only live on beds or near them. They can live in other pieces of furniture that people spend a lot of time on. Be extremely careful if you are buying used furniture.
  • Used clothes can also have bed bugs on them. And even new clothes can have them. If a person who has an infestation has tried something on and you buy it, even one bed bug can be on it and then lay eggs in your home.

What attracts bed bugs? To you? To your home?

  • They are parasites that feed on human blood, so it’s the main thing that attracts them.
  • They also sense your body temperature and the carbon dioxide that you breath out, and that’s how they find you at night. They use these things as orientation for where you are, they crawl on your bed and find the best place on your body to feed.
  • Hiding places. They will need to hide somewhere near your bed or other furniture where you spent time on. Cracks in walls, even power outlets will do, skirting board, bed frame, carpet near the bed, etc. Professional pest exterminators would advise you on keeping clutter to minimum.

Signs of bed bugs

  • Black spots on your mattress or sheets – it’s bed bugs’ faecal matter. It’s gross, yes. And if see some black dots, it’s probably them.
  • Red spots on the sheets – this would be your own blood. After they’ve fed and left you alone, some tiny drops of your blood may have dropped onto your sheets.
  • Itchy hives – which are bed bug bites. In 24 hours period after the initial biting, you may see red hives on your body. Try not to scratch them and risk getting it infected. If the area gets infected see your doctor, bed bug bites are a serious matter.
  • Skins and eggshells – Dead skins or empty shells are a sign of a growing infestation.
  • Eggs or live bugs – Even though they only grow up to 5mm in length, you can see the bugs with a naked eye. If you see a reddish-brown tiny bug on your bed or near it – it’s a bed bug.

No. They don’t jump, they don’t fly. They just walk and climb. They’ve never been able to jump or fly and let’s hope they never are.

Where do bed bugs live?

Highly populated areas are also highly populated with bed bugs. They are considered a common pest in the UK in the latest years because the number of people travelling internationally has increased. Bed bugs thrive in Spring, Summer and early Autumn. Your London home provides great living conditions for them because of the typical UK weather and temperatures. They prefer dark places so you won’t see them out in the open in the daytime.

That’s why the places in your home where bed bugs live are:

  • Your mattress
  • The box spring of your bed
  • Walls near your bed or other furniture
  • Night stands near your bed
  • Baseboard or bed frame
  • Closet and clothing
  • Sheets
  • Curtains and carpets
  • Sofas, armchairs or other furniture where you spend time

How long do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs live comparatively longer than most types of insects. Since hatching, the life of a bug can go up to one year under perfect conditions. If not, it can live for up to ten months in general.

How long can a bed bug live without feeding? An adult bug can live without feeding on a host anywhere between two weeks and over a year, иf it lives in a place with the right amount of humidity and temperature.

Yes. Spiders eat bed bugs. There is usually more than one type of spider in every UK home and spiders feed primarily on other insects.

Other enemies of the parasite bugs are cockroaches and centipedes. Both of which are also a common household pest in the UK and would also eat bed bugs. But you shouldn’t rely on another type of insect to help you win the battle with pests.

How to kill bed bugs?

This is a complicated problem, like you on your own are unlikely to manage to clear the infestation. Bed bugs can die at very high or very low temperatures, or they are treated by an insecticide with industrial strength. DIY bed bug treatments often end badly, so be careful. If you suspect an active infestation book a professional bed bug treatment to save your home.

Matteo Grader is a senior pest technician and specialises in bed bugs treatments. He is knowledgeable and has experience in treating a wide variety of pest infestations in and around London. He likes helping people get rid of their pest problems and is always happy to explain to people how to prevent such problems.

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