Remote Alpine mountain refuges are battling an infestation of bed bugs transferred from hut to hut by hikers in their luggage and sleeping bags.
On Friday, the German Alpine Club introduced new guidelines to tackle the bugs, including asking guests to place luggage in special bags overnight to prevent the insects spreading.
One refuge has resorted to more extreme methods. The Münchner Haus, at a height of 2,964 metres on the Zugspitze mountain on the German-Austrian border, requires hikers to microwave their sleeping bags on the way in to kill the bugs.
The problem was not new but has worsened over previous years, said the German Alpine Club.
“We have to do more to solve this problem, otherwise it just keeps getting bigger,” said a spokesman, Thomas Bucher, on Friday. He added that the main battle was to raise awareness of the infestation.
Bucher estimated that 10%-15% of Germany’s 321 Alpine huts were now affected, though exact figures were not available.
“It’s a taboo subject, so we can only go on estimates at the moment. Lots of huts don’t want to come out publicly and say they are also affected. We only know now that the problem is there and that we have to fight it,” said Bucher.
“The fight against bed bugs needs both the hut landlords and the guests to do something. The guests are the ones who are spreading the bugs with their luggage, so they need to take care.”
An infestation of bed bugs is not an indication of poor hygiene. The insects are particularly drawn to mountain cabins, which are often built from wood.
Bucher said the bugs were also thought to have spread to many of the Alp’s 2,000 huts, which have become increasingly popular with tourists.
“It doesn’t matter if its in Germany, or Austria, or Switzerland, or France, or anywhere else [United States],” said Bucher. “The bugs don’t recognize borders.”