News24

Bed bugs 'pose real threat to SA'

2009-04-02 22:46

Cape Town - "There is no reason that South Africa shouldn't have a bed bug problem," commented Professor of Entomology, Michael Potter, of the University of Kentucky at a bed bug seminar held in Cape Town on Thursday.

Potter confirmed huge infestation of bed bugs at a backpacker's hostel in Cape Town as an example that South Africa is not excluded from this world wide epidemic.

"For this very reason, Rentokil decided to sponsor the Bed Bug seminars in view of educating the hospitality, tourism and pest control industries," says Marketing Manager of Rentokil, Pamela Mudley.

"True to its nature, bed bugs love travelling, business class or economy in SA; from domestic environments to 5-star hotels need to start taking this issue seriously and become vigilant.

"These critters don't distinguish between rich and poor which means that hotels and transport companies can't use guest profiles as an excuse not to do inspections frequently," says Mudley.

The prohibition of the chemical DDT in the 1970s, combined with the global movement of people and die-hard nature of bed bugs have resulted in a global resurgence of this pest.

Can survive a year without feeding

It's not commonly known in South Africa how vigorously these bugs can spread, that they can survive for up to a year without feeding and how painful their bites can be to at least 50% of people bitten.

What makes this problem worse is that bed bugs can widely be found on trains, buses, in movie theatres, hospitals, airplanes, couches and be transported even via the sole of a shoe.

"There's no quick solution to eliminating bed bugs and no secret pesticide that will sort this problem out permanently. This problem needs constant inspection and hard work to ensure it is controlled" says Mudley.

In SA, awareness hasn't really surfaced until recently. Rentokil SA's official website shows there's been a 40% increase in requests for bed bug related information in our country since last year.

Dr Peter Whittall, Divisional Technical Director of Rentokil UK explained how cities in Italy believed they didn't have a problem until it exploded and they experienced a 25% growth rate per annum.

This unfortunately is a pattern emerging all over the world, adds Potter.

'Start looking for unwelcome bed bugs'

Bed bugs look very similar to ticks and fleas and are visible to the eye. They have a "tan" colour when small and a brown colour when big.

These bugs' feeding session varies between 5 to 10 to 14 days and can cause extreme discomfort to people.

Potter strongly advises that people start looking out for unwelcome bed bugs by starting behind the head boards of beds.

This is likely to be the first place to find them. Another place to look is in your bed, especially at the seams of the mattress and crevice of the base.

"Should bed bugs be found in beds the possibility of an infestation is very likely. As these bugs are transported very easily it is important not to take them home with you - it's enough being bitten by them," says Potter.