Bed bugs are also becoming increasingly widespread in Germany and can prove to be a persistent pest once they have established themselves in the home. An expert explains what measures you can take to combat them and, most importantly, how to protect yourself.

Apparently Paris was hit by a bed bug plague of biblical proportions last summer. In any case, social media was full of videos showing the pests cavorting under the seats of public transport, cinemas or in hotel beds. Even the French government addressed the issue – although suspicions arose afterwards that a Russian disinformation campaign was behind it, which had deliberately exaggerated the problem.

However, the bed bug problem has not gone away. The pests are actually increasing in Germany too. “The bed bug situation in Germany has gotten worse over the last ten years,” confirms Kai Scheffler, federal chairman of the German Pest Control Association (DSV) to FOCUS online.

The number of cases has been rising, especially since travel activity has increased again after Corona. However, private households are less affected, explains the expert. “Only one in ten cases is actually a private household,” Scheffler continued. They most commonly occur in shared accommodation and overnight accommodations such as hotels. Scheffler believes that it is unlikely that the virus will spread in subways and cinemas, as was reported from Paris last summer.

However, no one should bring this plague into their home. The red-brown pests, which are approximately five to six millimeters small, are anything but pleasant: they are nocturnal and feed on human blood. Their bites lead to small, red, itchy pustules in most of those affected. But they can also cause severe rashes and allergic reactions in sensitive people. A small consolation: According to the Federal Environment Agency, they play no role in the transmission of diseases. Scheffler also confirms that this risk is almost zero.

Nevertheless, the expert advises taking precautions when traveling: “In the hotel, you should use the luggage rack for your luggage and not put it near the bed,” he advises. It also makes sense to put your clothes in the closet, he says.

But Scheffler believes panicking to check hotel beds for bed bugs while traveling is overkill. “I would only do that if I discovered black dots on the bed sheet,” he says. Because this could be the feces of these animals, which they increasingly secrete around their hiding places.

If you want to be on the safe side or are worried that you may have brought bed bugs with you, you should not unpack your suitcase in the bedroom upon your return. “Either unpack the laundry in the bathtub or shower or on the tiled floor and then wash it as normal – that usually solves the problem,” says Scheffler.

However, anyone who has evidence of an infestation at home, for example because they were on vacation in an affected accommodation, and is also bitten at home and finds traces of feces, blood or even an animal, should take action. However, the insects cannot be controlled with any home remedies. “If you have an infestation, you have to hire a professional pest controller,” advises Scheffler. The animals spread quickly and hide not only in beds, but also in upholstered furniture, behind light switches, floorboards and wallpaper.

That’s why one treatment is not enough – the pest controllers have to come out several times. Eliminating an infestation is therefore expensive and can take several weeks. “Bed bugs are very defensive and cannot be killed so easily,” says Scheffler.

Simply applying insecticides is therefore not necessarily the method of choice, emphasizes Scheffler. “This is not particularly ideal in bedrooms, as they are inhaled and people can also react allergically to them.” The insects are now resistant to some preparations. “In order to die, the bed bugs have to come into contact with the insecticides,” he explains. “In some cases, however, they develop what is known as behavioral resistance,” says Scheffler. This means that they crawl over the insecticide-treated surfaces with their legs stretched out so that the preparation does not come into contact with their body and cannot harm them. They could also partially free themselves from adhesive tape.

Treatment is therefore always situation-dependent. “Exactly how you proceed depends on the case – heat treatments are also an option.” The infected rooms are heated to 50 to 60 degrees using special ovens so that the animals and the eggs die. Scheffler doesn’t think much of horror scenarios where you’ll never be able to get rid of your roommates. “Keep calm, you can get the infestation under control – even if it’s not cheap and a lot of work has to be done,” he says.

Anyone affected can find reputable and qualified providers through associations such as the DSV. This is the only way to be sure that you will get rid of bed bugs and not have to pay horrendous bills for dubious services, adds Scheffler.

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