Troubling bed bug infestations increasing in Irish homes – here’s how to spot them

By: Geraldine Gittens

Bed bugs in the UK are resistant to poison such that entire communities have given up attempting to eradicate them and are learning to live alongside them, experts warned earlier this week.

Residents in Govanhill in Glasgow had chosen to accept the insects after running out of ways to kill them.

Here in Ireland, Colm Moore, area technical manager at Rentokil in Ireland says that while there is no scientific proof that bed bugs are becoming more resistant in Ireland, infestations are on the rise.

The number of callouts Rentokil made this year in relation to bed bugs represented a 14-fold increase since 1997.

“Our parents and grandparents were aware of bed bugs. We all know the saying, ‘night night, don’t let the bed bugs bite’. That generation knew what bed bugs looked like. Now people don’t – they think they’re dust mites or beetles, but they’re not.”

“We see a lot of them. They’ve been on the increase since the early noughties. We probably link that most likely to the movement of people.”

When travelling abroad, Mr Moore warns, there are ways to spot bed bugs in your accommodation. There are two tell tale signs in particular – and they don’t involve bites on human skin.

“Shed skins. As the animal grows it has to shed its exoskeleton. These are left in the corners of mattresses, in picture frames, and they look like very light coloured see-through plastic.”

“When you’re at home, and changing the bed sheets and the duvet covers, look for things that look like coffee grounds.”

“You’re looking for blood spotting. A bed bug is an ectoparasite, it feeds on the host – you or me – and it gets rid of the blood that it can’t digest. This blood will look like spilt coffee grounds in the corner of the bed.”

“They don’t actually live in the mattress. They will harbour on the mattress, in the seams or the buttons. If you lift up the seams, you’ll see eggs or nymphs.”

Mr Moore added: “They’re not microscopic, the adults are about five to 6mms and they’re discoid in shape. Eggs are milky white so difficult to spot.”

People with bed bug infestations in their homes won’t always know they’ve been bitten, Moore warned.

“You may not actually react for several weeks… If there are two people in a bed, I guarantee both of them are getting bitten, it’s just that one person is showing up with bites.”

“For them to fully develop into adults they need at least five blood feeds.”

“If they’re there, females will produce 250 to 300 eggs in a lifetime and will live a year without a blood feed.”

There are several things people can do to prevent bed bug infestations, he says, especially when travelling abroad.

“When you’re abroad and travelling around the place, which I do a lot, I check my bed. It’s knowing what the signs are.”

He added: “If people store furniture and get second-hand furniture, you can import the problem into your home.”

Varying several chemical treatments can be effective in eradicating them, Mr Moore said.

“If you use insecticide, use a three-part treatment. First, inspect and treat, follow up and treat, follow up and treat again.”

“We’ve no scientific proof in Ireland that we have resistant bed bugs. But if you’re trying to get rid of them, use different chemical ingredients to prevent resistance.

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