Bed bugs are on the rampage, with pest controllers reporting a doubling of call-outs to deal with the unwelcome sleep companions.
Rentokil Pest Control said it had seen a 140 per cent jump in the number of inquiries about the blood-sucking insects since the end of summer.
Compared with the same month last year, September saw complaints leap by 217 per cent. Late summer and early autumn are the peak season for bed bugs as holidaymakers unwittingly carry the critters in their luggage or clothing.
David Cross, head of Rentokil’s technical training academy, said: “International travel has rocketed, and is likely to be the cause of the bed bug population explosion in the UK.
“Indeed, we were virtually free of the pests until about ten years ago. They’re now common household pests in Britain, latching onto travellers via clothing or inside their bags. The insects also thrive in the hospitality industry where hotel staff manage a high turnover of guests.”
Bed bugs tend to be found near to where people sleep, and are attracted to body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide.
Once one of the insects has latched onto a victim it will take up to seven times its own body weight in blood.
Most people will not have a severe reaction to being bitten, but on rare occasions white lumps can develop under the surface of the skin.
Continual scratching of bites can lead to infections.
A single female bed bug can produce 200 eggs in a single brood and raise several generations in the course of a year.
Mr Cross added: “The best way to kill bed bugs is through temperature change.
“Anything above 54C or below minus 34C will kill bed bugs, including those that have developed some form of resistance to certain chemicals.
“Treatment typically depends on the severity of the infestation, but implementing a mobile heat pod treatment is one way to achieve high temperatures in the home.
“The heat pod is chemical-free and involves the set-up of a room-sized structure where all furniture and furnishings from the affected area can be placed. The contents are then heated to a temperature that kills off bed bugs, including their eggs.”
Here is Rentokil’s advice on how to beat bed bugs:
n Before travelling, check sites such as TripAdvisor for reviews and look out for any mention of bed bugs.
n Check the hotel room before you unpack. In hotels, bed bugs are usually found on and around the bed.
n Avoid putting your case on the bed when you arrive. Instead, place it in a bath or shower cubicle so you can check the bed for bugs first.
n If you suspect bed bugs are present, ask to change rooms. Try to get one on a different floor not directly above or below, since bed bugs can travel between adjacent rooms.
n Search and wash your belongings as soon as you get home. Put your case in a bath and check for insects before you start to unpack. Wash clothing you took away at 60C, which will kill live bugs and eggs.