When The Bed Bugs Bite... & How To Get Rid of Them

The Naked Scientists spoke to Dr Ian Burgess, Insect Research & Development Ltd.
27 March 2005

Interview with 

Dr Ian Burgess, Insect Research & Development Ltd.


Chris - Let's talk about bed bugs. They're on the rise.

Ian - They've been increasing over the last ten years, and maybe even before that. In the 1950s and 60s we knocked them very hard with DDT, the insecticide everyone loves to hate. We then forgot about them, even though there were little enclaves of them all around the country. Since then, they've been spreading. Because they were treated so much with DDT, a lot of them had some level of resistance. Some of the pesticides we use now have a very similar action to DDT, and so what's happened is that they've used this resistance to repel the pesticides that are in use now, and so we can't kill them so easily.

Chris - How many bugs do you find in the average bed?

Ian - Well in the average bed, probably none! We mustn't confuse bed bugs with house dust mites, which you often find in the popular press. Bed bugs are big things, and for anyone who wants to know what they look like, they are as big as the zero on the old fifty pence piece, up to six millimetres long in some cases. They suck blood while you're sleeping.

Chris - How do you know if you've got bed bugs?

Ian - You find things that you think might be mosquito bites on you. Some people actually show very little reaction, but some people react so badly as to get secondary infections.

Chris - How do you get rid of them?

Ian - You have to call in a professional pest controller because you can't deal with fly sprays and the likes. They live in the walls, the bed frame and the skirting board, so they are not easy to get rid of. It's a structural problem, and in the old days people had to strip off the plaster, take up the floorboards and go around the whole house with a blowtorch.


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