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Bed bugs

There are two main types of bed bug.

Bed bug

The most common bed bugs are the common bed bug, found in dwellings, and the Martin bug, which normally lives in birds' nests but can bite people. Common bed bugs  (pictured) are oval wingless insects, approximately 5mm long, with six legs and two antennae. They are red-brown in colour and flat in shape. Their colour turns to red/purple after a blood meal and they become more rounded in shape.

Where do they live?

They hide in mattresses, within bed frames, under bed bases, within bed headboards, behind loose wallpaper, within paintings, wall sockets, and telephones. Also behind wall partitioning, suspended ceilings, skirting boards, on clothing or furnishings, and anywhere with a dark crack/crevice/seam providing harbourage. They like to stay close together. With frequent feeding, adults can live for up to 18 months. They breed by laying eggs that usually hatch after about 10 to 20 days. The bugs then grow through a series of stages. At each stage they need to feed on blood, until they become adults after about nine to 18 weeks. A female can lay between 150 and 345 eggs in her life.

The presence of bedbugs in a room can be detected by the following:

  • blood spotting on bedding
  • brown excrement spots close to where they live and on bedding
  • whitish/opaque un-hatched and hatched eggs
  • in heavy infestations, a sweet almond smell is common
  • bed bugs are not normally seen during the day

Bed bugs will not travel too far from their host, but can move into adjacent rooms via interconnecting ducting/spaces. They are most likely to be transferred from place to place via infested linen, clothing, furniture and other articles. In hotels and hostels, housekeeping staff can unknowingly transfer bed bugs around the premises on all of the items mentioned above and guests can take bed bugs with them from hotel to hotel and eventually to their own home.

Are they a health hazard?

Bed bugs are not known to carry disease. However, they feed on human blood, usually at night whilst people are asleep in their beds. They inject a fluid into their host to help get their blood meal. These bites cause irritation and itching. Some people are particularly sensitive to the bites and experience an allergy and inflammation, especially to the arms and shoulders. This can be quite severe and require medical attention.

How can I get rid of them?

Bed bugs can thrive where hygiene standards are poor and housekeeping sloppy.

In hotels and hostels house-keeping staff should be trained to identify the signs of bed bug infestation and whilst cleaning rooms should be alert management to the possibility of infestation.

Infested bedding and furnishings should be laundered in a hot wash, and care should be taken not to aid dispersal of the infestation via laundry baskets. In severe cases, items of furniture will require removal and burning.

Note: It is difficult to treat bedbugs yourself and you should seek professional help.

The council's pest control team does not provide a service for the treatment of bedbugs at the present time and persons affected should seek this service from a reputable company of which there are many available locally.

Treatment consists of the application of an insecticide usually in a spray form, in and around the infested areas. The insecticides the council use are the safest available and do not pose any risk to people or pets. The exception to this is fish, which have similar body structures to insects. You will, however, be left with an information sheet about the insecticide used by the operative. The pest control officer will be able to give on site advice about any precautions that the occupant needs to take before and after treatment. It is sometimes necessary to treat more than one room if there is a severe infestation.

It is possible to carry out treatment yourself. If doing so, when using pesticides, always follow the instructions on the label.

After the treatment you will usually notice a reduction in the number of bed bugs within two to three days. It may take longer to kill off all the insects as their eggs will continue to hatch out. The treatment is very effective but there are occasions when it does not work. If you are still seeing bed bugs two weeks after the treatment then further treatment may be necessary.

Tenants of Hillingdon Housing Service please contact repairs. Housing Associations (RSL's) should contact their landlords to see if assistance is possible from them. Other tenants should contact their landlord initially, particularly if they believe the property they occupy may have been infested prior to their occupation.

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