Are You Ready for the Bed Bug-pocalypse?

The thing about being eaten alive by insects is you know it’ll happen at the most inopportune time. You know it won’t happen when you’re eating right and doing your little exercises, mentally bolstered and prepared for life’s cosmic jokes. No, it’s clearly going to happen when work’s getting massively on top, or the night before that sexy date you’ve somehow landed. You see, bed bugs are the eternal bogeyman of the mattress. And they’re so back.

The little guys are tearing through France, popping up everywhere, and not just in Gallic boudoirs. They’re on public transport, in the cinemas, in your nightmares. Though the whole country’s going through it, Paris has reportedly been most affected as gnarly photos and videos circulate of infested Parisian infrastructure.

At the end of September, French officials moved to allay fears, because there are fears: There’s no purer, more crystalline fear, in fact, than these bloodsucking, oval-bodied little guys. “To reassure and protect”, French transport minister Clement Beaune posted Friday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he would “bring together transport operators next week to provide information on the actions undertaken and act in the interests of passengers”.

Despite the government launching a campaign in 2020 to help tackle the infestation, France’s bed bug problem is an ongoing political issue. It’s an especially pressing one for French president Emmanual Macron’s government, with the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics coming into view – not to mention the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which has already started.

According to professor James Logan, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and CEO of Arctech Innovation, there’s multiple factors behind the bed bugs’ rise. “Climate change is one thing,” he tells VICE. “Most insects breed better when it’s warmer, so if there are more months of the year that are warmer, then there’s more chance of insects breeding quicker.” 

“But with bed bugs, we’re seeing an ongoing increase in many parts of the world,” he explains. “And that’s partly due to global travel. Particularly following the pandemic, people are moving around a lot more than they were obviously a few years ago.”

He says bed bugs have also become more resistant to insecticides and toxic chemicals used to kill them, and the rise in popularity of secondhand furniture is another way the “little critters can hitch a ride”.

Paris, however, hasn’t necessarily got it worse than anywhere else. “I haven’t seen any scientific evidence to suggest that,” Logan says. “Bed bugs are everywhere, and they are on the increase, and therefore it isn’t surprising that they would be somewhere like Paris.”

“Maybe it’s just because of the attention on the Olympics next year that maybe it’s being highlighted. But it could also be that they’ve just been unlucky in that they do have a bit of a resurgence at the moment,” Logan says.

What can people do to protect themselves from bed bugs? You can wear a repellent if you were, say, taking public transport, although Logan says the chances of encountering a bed bug, even in Paris, “is probably quite small”.

“If you’re staying somewhere like in a hotel room, the best thing to do is to keep your suitcase or your luggage off the floor,” he adds. “Keep it zipped closed so nothing can get in there because that’s how they hitchhike.”

Also: Don’t leave your clothes on the floor, but if you do, check them, “especially along the seams just to check that there’s nothing hiding there”, Logan says. If you see a bed bug in your hotel room, ask to move.

Say the worst thing in the world actually happens and you have a home infestation? Call the pest controller, Logan advises. “The key is to find out as soon as possible and to get it dealt with as soon as possible. And really, the best way is to get a pest controller in who will do that.”

While unpleasant, bed bug bites are, medically speaking, only a “nuisance”, as they cannot transmit diseases to humans. “We just need to learn to live smarter in a bug’s world,” Logan says. “We’ll never get rid of them, so we just need to work out how best to protect ourselves against them.” For example, he and his team at Arctech are working on a trap utilising pheromones that bed bugs produce.

Logan warns that climate change will have an impact on insect populations, including bed bugs. “Although bed bugs are likely to be there anyway, it will probably exacerbate that, along with other insects that we really need to be worried about in the future, like mosquitoes.” 

“Aedes mosquitoes are in France, and they are mosquitoes that transmit dengue [fever], and you do get little outbreaks of dengue in France. It will only be a matter of time before that comes to the UK. So maybe it’s an indication of what’s to come.”

The post Are You Ready for the Bed Bug-pocalypse? appeared first on VICE.

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