Bed Bugs were first noticed in society by Americans in the early 1700’s. Many problems with bed bugs can be found in scripts and literature from this time period all throughout North America.

Many believe sail boats returning from Europe were found to be infested with bed bugs. And many of the sailors complained of being attacked by these bugs as they slept in their cabins.

Bed bugs have made a recent comeback. Some research indicates that up to 25% of residents in some cities have reported problems with them; usually in lower-class, urban areas. For these residents, bed bugs are not only a nuisance, but a problem bordering on epidemic levels. History has never seen such widespread and intense bed bug infestations.

The world saw a marked decrease in the numbers of bed bugs when DDT was introduced in the 1950s. The use of DDT as a pesticide was banned in the 1970’s and hardy bed bugs seemingly welcomed the news. In the past few years, levels of bed bug infestations have been on par with what was known previous to the mid century mark and they continue to rise.

With increased world travel, bed bugs are again making their presence felt as they are removed from one country and introduced to another through international transport on clothing, luggage and the human body. Bed bugs can be found on airlines and in cargo holds. Bed bugs can also be transferred from an overnight stay in a hotels, motels and Inns.

Bed Bugs in the UK

Most people have heard of bed bugs, but perhaps aren’t exactly sure what they are or just how serious a problem they can be. Bed bugs – or cimex lectularius ; as they are technically known, are not actually harmful, although they are certainly a nuisance as they like to feed on human blood. Bed bugs are usually about a quarter of an inch long, although after feeding, they can grow to three times their normal size – and are reddish brown in color.

Bed bugs are not indicative of an unclean or untidy home and they can be found in even the cleanest environment, often in sheets and bedding, behind pictures and in cracks in the wall. They can be found behind loose wallpaper, and in wood furniture. Apart from the actual creatures themselves, tell-tale signs of bed bugs include blood spots, discarded skins and tiny specks of excrement. And of course the bites, which many people don’t notice until the next morning; they can appear anywhere on the body, particularly on the face, arms and legs.

Bed bugs are not a recent problem in the UK; they have actually been around for centuries – although the problem has worsened during the last couple of years or so. The problem also seems to be cyclical – at the beginning of the 20th century, it is estimated that bed bugs were biting around four million people in London on a regular basis; and some countries had an even worse problem an estimated 33% of homes in Stockholm were infested around that time.

During the 1950s and 60s, the bed bug problem diminished significantly in the UK, partly due to the increased availability of newly developed insecticides. But the problem seems to be back again – the UK based pest control company Rentokil estimates that the number of bed bugs has increased by around 40%. The worsening bed bug problem is thought to be caused largely by an increase in overseas travel and by people inadvertently bringing bed bugs into the country. This problem was apparent in Australia; following the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the country suffered from a bed bug infestation and it was estimated around 95% of hotels in Sydney were affected.

Some experts also seem to think that the poor UK economy is partly to blame for the increased numbers of bed bugs. More people than usual are traveling between cities in search of work and often staying in hotels; they may be literally carrying bed bugs from one location to another in their luggage or clothing. And an increase in the number of people buying second hand bedding or clothes can also worsen the problem, as bed bugs can often be found in old sheets, bedding, clothes and mattresses and again, people are� carrying bed bugs from one place to another.

It’s also estimated that a lot of bed bug infestations in the UK go unreported. Many people are understandably ashamed if they discover bed bugs in their home and would rather try to deal with the problem themselves, than report it. Local councils are also reluctant to advertise the fact that that they may have a bed bug problem; and companies that specialize in pest control are not always willing to identify the towns or cities where they have discovered a bed bug infestation.

Rentokil and other pest control companies in the UK have tried to alleviate the bed bug problem by attempting to destroy the pests with a new chemical. This strategy is effective only up to a point as sooner or later, bed bugs will simply develop an immune system to any new or experimental chemical that is being used and the process has to be repeated all over again.

Bed bugs can often be found in UK airports and other transportation hubs, such as bus and railway stations. They also tend to be found more in larger cities, which usually have a more transient population. And not surprisingly, hotels and rented accommodation tend to have the worst problem with bed bugs as they process new arrivals on a regular basis, potentially bringing bed bugs with them in their luggage. It isn’t just cheap hotels either; top hotels can have a problem with bed bugs despite their best efforts to rid themselves of the tiny pests. In 2007, a well documented incident concerned a problem with bed bugs at one of the UK’s top hotels, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental in London. A prominent attorney and his wife sued the hotel for several million dollars after suffering hundreds of bites during a five day stay at the hotel in 2006. The couple also claimed in their lawsuit that the bed bugs infiltrated their luggage and clothing and subsequently infested their apartment in New York after they had returned home.

The Mandarin Oriental case has led to several other bed bug lawsuits, both in the UK and overseas, although it can be difficult to accurately determine just how many, as hotel companies naturally don’t welcome the publicity. If you do encounter bed bugs in your hotel or rented accommodation, a more practical solution is probably to notify somebody as soon as possible and have them exterminated. And if you don’t have insecticide handy, various other things that are believed to kill bed bugs include eucalyptus oil, lavender and sweet rice.

Bed Bugs in the EU (European Union)

Many people grow up familiar with the phrase �Sleep tight, and don�t let the bed bugs bite��, but aren�t aware that bed bugs are real insects that really do pack a nasty bite. At one point considered to be all but extinct in some regions, they have in recent years begun to make a comeback in numerous countries around the world. One of the areas where bed bug infestations have really started to increase in frequency is Europe; many European nations have seen a noted increase in bed bug populations despite efforts to control or reduce them. In some portions of Europe the number of infestations have actually been reported to nearly double with each passing year. In order to impart a better understanding of bed bugs and the effects of bed bug infestations in Europe, more information on the bugs, their bites and the increase in infestations in Europe can be found below.

Characteristics of Bed Bugs

Though some believe that bed bugs (also known as Cimex lectularius) are too small to be seen easily by the naked eye, adult bed bugs are actually nearly the size of an apple seed (though their actual size can range from 4 to 6 millimeters or 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.) The bugs are wingless and possess a flat, oval body that is generally brown in color (though immature bed bugs are translucent) with bands of small hairs that give the bug the appearance of having stripes. They live exclusively off of the blood of warm-blooded mammals and other animals, and often live in nests or bedding so that they can bite their victims as they sleep. They tend to be most active approximately an hour before dawn, biting their victims with a mouthpiece made up of two tubes that inject them with saliva to prevent clotting and then suck the blood from the wound.

Effect of Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites generally produce swelling in the area surrounding the bite much like mosquito bites do, though in many cases these bites are distinguishable from mosquitoes because they feature a red dot in the middle of them similar to flea bites. The bites tend to itch quite a bit, the result of an allergic reaction to a chemical in the bed bugs’ saliva. Bed bug bites can take a week or longer to appear and often appear in groups of three, with the bites spaced approximately 6 millimeters or 1/4 of an inch apart. Around half of all people bitten by bed bugs never show any signs of the bites at all, though they may experience anxiety, insomnia, or in some cases even nausea as a result of being bitten. Antihistamines and other internally-taken medications often do little to reduce the itching of bed bug bites, though the application of some topical medicines such as Hydrocortisone cream or the application of heat can work quite well.

Increase in Infestation Reports in Europe

Though bed bug infestations had at one point nearly been eradicated in cities and towns throughout Europe, the number of infestation reports has been growing steadily since the turn of the century. It is believed that at least part of the reason for this rise in infestation has to do with the ease of traveling from one area to another, with bed bugs occasionally tagging along for the ride. The bugs wind up staying in the seats of airplanes, buses and other means of public transport, eventually clinging to a passenger and finding their way into residential homes. Houses with no history of bed bug infestation have suddenly become infested soon after visiting relatives leave, while rental properties and hotels have had infestations to begin after housing foreign visitors. Infestations have been reported in upscale housing as well as cheap hotels, proving that bed bugs aren�t a sign of filth but instead are simply opportunistic parasites who are able to get in to even the cleanest European homes.

Consequences of Bed Bug Infestations

In addition to the discomfort of being bitten by bed bugs and the cost of treating bites that itch or become infected, there are a number of other consequences of bed bug infestations. Hotels and hostels have been faced with lawsuits resulting from guests that have suffered numerous bed bug bites while staying with them, though they generally offer to settle the suit out of court in an effort to avoid bad publicity. The threat of these lawsuits has led to some hotels to increase their rates in order to enact a more thorough extermination plan, while some hostels have had to resort to changing their policies so that guests are required to shower before they are even able to visit their room. Similarly, some smaller airlines have had to raise rates in order to secure more thorough cleaning services to prevent bed bugs from stowing away in seating and luggage holds� a consequence made even worse by the already high cost of fuel.

Treating Infestations

A large part of the reason that bed bugs had all but died out was the widespread use of harsh pesticides such as DDT as a means of treating cockroach and other insect infestations in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. As more countries began to realize the hazardous nature of these chemicals they began to ban them, not realizing that the drop in bed bug infestations was related to their use. This doesn’t mean that harsh pesticides are required to get rid of bed bugs, of course; a number of safer and more environmentally-friendly pesticides can easily kill bed bugs, and they can also generally be eliminated by washing sheets, vacuuming carpet, and steam-cleaning mattresses and other furniture.

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