The newspapers including the Daily Mail and Daily Express recently reported a surge in UK bed bug infestations. Just six months ago I would have taken a headline screaming “Bed Bug Infestation Are Up By 38%” with a pinch of salt. However, after spending a day with a Rentokil surveyor and witnessing one of the worst bed bug infestations in the UK I can confirm first hand that bed bugs are back.
Over the past year Rentokil surveyors across the country have been called out to an increasing number of commercial and residential properties to address bed bug infestations. I spent a day with Roger Maskell, one of our longest serving Surveyors who can sniff out a bed bug infestation in a thrice.
I met Roger in our Maidenhead office lobby. Roger opened his diary which was crammed with a long list of appointments. Some appointments were to visit customers who thought they had a pest problem but couldn’t identify what was biting them or making them itch. Others were to visit commercial properties – these customers knew what the problem was but didn’t have the expertise or in the case of pigeon problems – a tall enough ladder to deal with it.
After planning the best route to get round all the customers we hopped into Roger’s nippy little Astra and headed towards the pretty country village of Taplow to visit a customer who called to say he had been bitten to pieces. We knocked on the door of a smart flat. An elderly gentleman answered and we were immediately hit by a distinctive musty smell. “Bed bugs!” Roger whispered.
Every Rentokil surveyor and technician has to complete a rigorous training course in which they learn not just how to treat infestations, but also they are taught to identify evidence of a pest infestation as well as identifying the pests themselves. Our technicians know their bees from wasps, their brown rats from voles and their bed bugs from dust mites. They can find a nest in seconds and identify practically anything. And if they can’t – there’s an entomologist who can.
We walked into the lounge. I looked down. The carpet was moving. I looked closer. It was full of crawling insects.The customer handed me a glass, “I managed to catch a few,” he said. I peered into it. Dead, flat, reddish-brown bed bugs covered the bottom. The gentleman hitched up his trousers to his knees. His legs were covered in bites. His arms were as bad too.
Roger removed the mattress from the bed and turned the wooden frame over. It was covered in dark stains. “Look very closely at the gaps in the wood and you can see the bed bugs. In a severe infestation like this we would have to treat the entire room as they are everywhere. The bed and mattress is so infested it is probably best not to be used.”
Chatting to the customer we were able to establish that the bed bugs had probably been brought back by his grandchildren who had stayed at his house after several months back-packing. Bed bugs can’t fly and are slow crawlers but they are adept at hitch-hiking.
In the car Roger immediately called the office and arranged for a technician to visit and treat the property as a matter of urgency. Neither of us could bear the thought of the man having to bear another night with thousands of bed bugs. I scratched my legs. “When you get back home”, said Roger, “put all your clothes straight into the washing machine onto a hot wash.” I scratched my arms. “Then put everything into the tumble dryer on the hottest setting just to make sure you’ve killed all the bed bugs.”
“But these trousers are dry clean only,” I whined. Roger rolled his eyes. There are lots of things that kill bed bugs. Luckily dry cleaning is one of them.