Terry Macalister, The Guardian (Manchester), September 22, 2008
Increased foreign travel and a lack of awareness have been blamed for the rise in bedbug infestations being reported by airlines, train and bus companies.
Pest control company Rentokil says there has been a 40% rise in the number of call outs over the past 12 months from the transport industry. Britain is now struggling to cope with infestations not seen in half a century.
The overall number of inquiries to the Rentokil UK website about the problem has doubled in the last three months. The company will this week fly in entomologists from all over the world to discuss the issue at its technical centre in Horsham, West Sussex.
Experts such as Professor Mike Potteran, an urban entomologist at the University of Kentucky, will be among the figures speaking in Britain but also at a series of events run by the company in France, Italy and Spain in a bid to help staff and clients cope with the bedbug infestation.
The enormous increase in international travel as a result of rising western living standards and low-cost flying is seen as a major factor behind the revival.
“We think that some of the problems result from changing lifestyles: the increasing amount of foreign travellers returning home with second-hand clothes and furniture is a major source of the problem. But the banning of certain chemicals in the 1960s and 1970s around the European Union plus a general lack of awareness is also to blame,” said Rentokil spokesman, Malcolm Padley.
The bedbug, Cimex lectularius, hides under carpets or in headboards or skirting boards. The red or brown nocturnal creatures, which are about 5mm long and can lay up to 500 eggs in the space of two months, feed on human blood.
Rentokil has been working on new insecticides, including the Cymexide Nano Fogger, which is being field-tested in France.