Modern lifestyles blamed for rise in bedbug infestations in UK

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The Independent Online

An outbreak of pesticide-resistant bedbugs has confounded experts who believed the blood-sucking insect had been eradicated from Britain in the 1980s.

An outbreak of pesticide-resistant bedbugs has confounded experts who believed the blood-sucking insect had been eradicated from Britain in the 1980s.

Research published by the Institute of Biology has revealed a rise in bedbug infestations in hotels and hostels throughout London.

However, Clive Boase, an international expert, said the problem is much more widespread. Mr Boase, from the Haverhill-based Pest Management Consultancy, who carried out the research, said: "The problem is prevalent in most parts of the UK to a greater or lesser extent."

He blames modern lifestyles for the rise in infestations. "Every time we move on, there is a chance we are taking a few bedbugs with us."

Increased sales of second-hand furniture, in which the bugs may be hiding, was another explanation although that was unlikely to account for the growth of infestations in up-market hotels.

Mr Boase added: "The problem exists in many homes as well as hotels. We can't just blame tourists because the bugs are spread by business people as well. We are looking at the possibility that bedbugs have become resistant to insecticides used to control them in the past."

Bedbugs take more blood in a single feed than any other insect and can cause allergic reactions and anaemia. Experts believe a single pregnant female can become a colony of several thousand within a year and infestations can spread from room to room within weeks. When deprived of blood, individual bugs can survive for a year or more, allowing infestations to persist in empty properties or stored furniture.

Writing in the institute's magazine Biologist , Mr Boase added: "They spend almost all their lives hidden in the seams of mattresses, behind headboards, skirting boards, in curtains and even underneath fitted carpets. They are seldom found living on clothing or people."

By the 1980s bedbugs had been eradicated in many developed countries, including the UK. However, Mr Boase said: "Since 1995 there has been an unexpected upturn in reports of bug infestations in the UK, USA and other countries. He said reports from pest-control companies, local authorities and hotel chains alerted experts to the problem.

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