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British cities face a bed bug epidemic, experts say

12:30 am, 21st August 2018

There has been a “vast increase” in the number of reported infestations of the pest this summer, according to CCS pest control manager Karen Henningham.

She echoed the concerns of other pest control experts, who have observed a steady increase in bed bugs since the 1990s and believe the summer heatwave may have caused a dramatic boost in their numbers this year.

“It’s our number one treatment,” she said. “They’re very hard to eradicate. All you need is one egg and they just multiply. They’re very hard to kill.”

Bed bugs thrive in warm, damp conditions, and they will happily live in clothes, sofas and furniture other than beds – meaning they can be picked up on public transport, planes or in other public places.

Some believe a boom in low-cost travel may be responsible for a rise in recent years.

For Max and Laura (not their real names), the appearance of tiny red bites in late July were the first sign of a problem.

“We ignored it for a bit,” Max told Sky News. “We thought it might be mosquitoes. Then we lifted up the mattress, and discovered all sorts of horrible things – big ones, eggs, small ones. It was really gross.”

They took the bed apart and washed everything with boiling water, moving to an airbed in the living room.

But, even after the mattress was treated with pest control measures, the creatures returned.

The couple have now invested in a bug-proof mattress cover and are hopeful that the “psychological torture” could be at an end.

But they’re painfully aware of the steep cost of what they’ve come to call the “war on bugs”.

“We’re lucky enough to have the time and money to get pest control in and sort it out,” Max said. “If we didn’t have that – and many people don’t – we might just be stuck with them.”

Ms Henningham said it is possible to fight bed bugs on a budget, suggesting those with concerns should wash fabrics at high temperatures, hoover beds, and remain vigilant for any sign of the creatures.

They are born colourless, but turn a dark red brown as they fill with blood sucked from the human beings they live with.

In many cases, however, only intensive professional procedures will completely eradicate the pests.

“A wooden headboard is a breeding ground. They can get into the floorboards,” Ms Henningham said.

“We recently visited a property and it looked like someone had been shot – but it was the bugs that had been squashed.”