Is the UK facing a second bed bug epidemic this year? This is what the experts had to say

Reports of a new bed bug epidemic are spreading. Here's what you need to do

Bed bug
(Image credit: Future PLC/Mary Wadsworth)

Having just recovered from a bed bug epidemic scare back in August of this year, we barely got a moment to have a breather before new reports started circling of a new outbreak last week. Bed bug infestations are no fun and are incredibly difficult to get rid of - even though there are ways how to get rid of bed bugs, do not despair - resulting in hives of itchy bites on affected homeowners. So this is not the kind of news anyone wants to hear.

And now the panic is further intensifying as bed bugs have apparently been spotted on the London Underground. But before we start freaking out ourselves, we went to our pest control experts to find out whether there actually is a new bed bug epidemic. And if so, why? 

 Paris bed bug epidemic in the UK 

A bedroom with pink bedding bedding and floral cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Carolyn Barber)

According to reports, the bed bug epidemic is coming from Paris this time, crossing the channel with travellers.

‘It’s been reported that Paris has had a recent outbreak of bed bugs and that they’re on the way to the UK,’ confirms Dr. Jonathan Kirby, pest expert at NOPE!. ‘Though bed bugs are an all-year-round pest, you do tend to find they’re most prevalent in August and September. So it could simply be that other factors are at play such as increased travelling and unseasonably warm weather this time of year.’

But perhaps the situation is not as dire as the media makes it seem. At least not yet.

‘We have had a slight increase in call outs but wouldn’t say there is an epidemic,’ says Sarah Beck, operations manager at The Pest Master. But she puts the increased spreading largely down to travel, even though she believes it’s often difficult to determine where they come from as they are master concealers. ‘The more that people travel the more risk of them spreading around.’

A bedroom with a wooden bed, a painting above the bed and cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Keith Henderson)

But how do these biting, blood-thirsty creatures find their way into your best mattress?

Paul Blackhurst, head of technical academy at Rentokil pest control that has experienced a 65% increase in bed bug enquiries year-on-year, explains they don’t just crawl in through open doors or windows. They need to be carried in. 

‘Bed bugs exhibit an excellent hiding ability, concealing themselves in various nooks and crannies within bedrooms, including cupboards and carpets,' he notes. They can seek refuge in upholstery such as sofas, curtains, and chairs, extending their presence to unexpected places such as the seats of planes, trains, and coaches.'

'These cunning pests are adept hitchhikers, readily latching onto humans for transportation, driven by their attraction to body heat and their insatiable need for their next blood meal.'

A bedroom with a pink wallpaper and turquoise bedding

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

That’s why travel is such a common way to bring bed bugs into your home. ‘In the summer months in particular, when families come back from holidays abroad, bed bugs can be transmitted far easier,' stresses Dr Jonathan.

'In fact, we found that 60% of Brits don’t wash all their clothes they took away with them on vacation and 75% don’t clean their luggage either – so infestations can set in once a family is back from their summer break.' Lesson learned. Always wash your clothes and luggage once you’re back from holiday.

Dr. Jonathan Kirby
Dr. Jonathan Kirby

Jonathan is a developmental chemist and pest expert at NOPE!. From pest control to masonry protection, he has dedicated himself to helping protect UK housing stock through the development of new and innovative products. 

‘Before settling into your holiday accommodation, carefully examine the bed, mattress, and surrounding areas for any signs of bed bugs, such as dark stains, faecal pellets, shed exoskeletons, or even live bugs,' advises pest control expert Paul.

And if you do find signs of bed bugs in your hotel room, it is recommended to alert management, request a refund and change hotels. As switching to another room likely won’t be effective enough since bed bugs can be transmitted via housekeeping carts. 

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a five-star hotel, a budget hostel or enjoying the comfort of your own home - these bed bugs are far from picky! 

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.