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Bed bugs in 13 questions

Bed bug infestations have increased in recent years, due to the rise in travel and the growing resistance of these bugs to insecticides. Does the presence of bed bugs reflect a lack of hygiene? Where can you pick them up? How can you get rid of them? We answer all your questions in this article.

What are bed bugs? How can you identify them?

Bed bugs are tiny insects that are visible to the naked eye. Each about the size of an apple seed, they usually hide under mattresses and on box springs. They feed exclusively on human blood and bite during the night.

Bed bugs can go several months without feeding. A female lays from five to 15 eggs per day, causing the population to rapidly multiply.

How do you know if you have bed bugs?

  • Signs at home

Their droppings – small black dots – can be seen on mattresses, in the slats or slots of box springs, on wooden headboards, on skirting boards, in the corners of walls, etc. Bed bugs live mainly in bedrooms. They avoid light and take shelter in dark, narrow, and inaccessible places.

  • Signs on skin

Bed-bug bites resemble the bites of other insects (mosquitoes, fleas, etc.) and occur mainly at night, when bed bugs are active.
They can appear in a line of three or four bites. They are generally found on exposed parts of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, or legs.

Do bed bugs transmit diseases?

No, bed bugs do not transmit diseases, but their bites cause itching and allergic reactions (urticaria).

Where can you pick up bed bugs?

You can pick up bed bugs in certain infested public places, especially resting places frequented by many different people, such as hotels, cinemas, trains, etc.

Bed bugs can be carried in clothing and luggage, when travelling or buying second-hand bedding, furniture, and clothes. 

According to a survey conducted by Ipsos for ANSES, almost 40% of infestations originate from a stay in a hotel or holiday rental accommodation, almost 20% come from the purchase of second-hand equipment, and in 16% of cases, a home was already infested when the new occupants arrived.

Why has there been an upsurge in infestations?

The upsurge in bed-bug infestations in recent years has been due in particular to the rise in travel and the increasing resistance of bed bugs to insecticides.

Are bed-bug infestations linked to a lack of hygiene?

No. The presence of bed bugs does not indicate a lack of cleanliness and anyone can fall victim to an infestation in their home.

There is also no link between a household’s level of income and it suffering an infestation. The survey carried out by Ipsos for ANSES found that 11% of French households had been infested by bed bugs between 2017 and 2022.

What can promote an infestation?

Travelling or living in shared accommodation, for example, can promote a bed-bug infestation. It would seem that working-age populations, as well as minors and young adults, are more likely to get bed bugs.

Can income level be a factor in the persistence of infestations?

A low income is not linked to the risk of bed-bug infestation. However, because the cost of treatment is not covered in full or even in part, infestations may last longer in lower-income households.

Indeed, bed-bug treatment can be expensive, costing an average of almost €900 per household. In addition to the cost of treatment, victims of infestation are sometimes afraid of being stigmatised, which can prevent them from talking about it and taking prompt action to keep it from spreading.

How can infestations be prevented?

To find out, refer to the information sheet (in French) produced by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition.

How can you get rid of them?

There is no miracle solution. An integrated pest management approach is required, involving a combination of mechanical (tidying, cleaning, vacuuming, etc.) and thermal (using heat (washing clothes at 60°C, using steam appliances, etc.) and cold (freezing)) measures.

Heat treatment can be used for an entire room, whereas freezing is better suited to infested clothing or small objects. Treatment should also be targeted and proportionate to the level of infestation.

Whether infestations are treated by private individuals or professionals, ANSES recommends favouring non-chemical methods.

Before any treatment is applied, ANSES reiterates that the infested room should be cleaned, vacuumed and tidied up.

Why should you avoid chemical products?

The use of chemical products can cause poisoning and make bed bugs more resistant to insecticides, thereby reducing the effectiveness of these treatments; more generally, it can also contribute to polluting the environment.

However, if the infestation persists, insect control professionals with a Certibiocide certificate will be able to use chemical products with marketing authorisation, which means that their effectiveness and risks have been assessed.

Is a prompt response required?

Bed bugs proliferate rapidly, so it is essential to take action as quickly as possible to prevent the infestation from spreading.

Two thirds of people who are infested manage to get rid of bed bugs within less than two months.

How should you choose an insect control professional?

  • Make sure they are accredited for the treatment of bed bugs. You can find the list of accredited professionals in France on the following website: cs3d-expertise-punaises.fr
  • If the professional uses an insecticide, they should have a valid Certibiocide certificate issued by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition.