How Did the Bed Bug Outbreak in France Happen?
If you’ve heard of the bed bug outbreak happening in France, you might feel a bit itchy just thinking about the blood-sucking insects (eek). As reported by Al Jazeera, the French government stated last week that it is fighting the infestation in Paris and several other cities.
“The state urgently needs to put an action plan in place against this scourge as France is preparing to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2024,” Paris’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire wrote in a recent letter. By that, he referenced how the City of Light is just 10 months away from hosting the games, which may attract millions of spectators.
Several people in France have uploaded videos on social media showing the extent of the bed bugs crisis. These clips show the creepy-crawlers hitching a ride on the Parisian metro, airport, trains, and more. Hide your kids, hide your wife.
With all the hubbub about bed bugs, you may be left wondering what the insects even are— and how an infestation can happen across an entire city. Well, it turns out, bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers (some are probably flying high on a plane as we speak), and are quite difficult to get rid of. Here’s everything to know.
How did the bed bugs “scourge” in France happen?
Deputy mayor Grégoire recently spoke about the bed bugs problem on French television. “No one is safe,” he explained. “You can catch them anywhere and bring them home, and not detect them in time until they have multiplied and spread.”
While his words weren’t exactly comforting— they were quite accurate. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, bed bugs are “public health pests” that feed on human blood, and while they are not known to carry diseases… they are itchy and persistent. If on the lookout for them in your home, they are brown, flat, oval-shaped, and about a 1/4-inch long.
Want to feel insurmountable itchiness for a second? Then be our guest and check out videos of the bed bugs across France right now. At least they look like their living their best Parisian life?
In Paris, at least, bed bugs seem to be a long-standing issue. According to Al Jazeera, more than one in 10 Parisian households had a bed bugs infestation from 2017 to 2022. Shockingly, 400,000 properties in Paris received bed bugs extermination services in 2018 alone.
So, it’s not exactly a new problem.
Interestingly, the outlet notes that bed bugs were decimated in Paris back in the 1950s— but they came back with a vengeance. Why? According to the French environment ministry, a surge in travel to other countries, as well as the insects’ resistance to pesticides. It’s not so easy to get rid of them any longer.
So where can bed bugs be found? While videos in France show the insects on public transportation and movie theaters, they are known for inhabiting dark, small spaces. And yes, when they bite human skin, the effects are quite itchy.
So how could the critters have spread this way in France? Well, in the same way they can spread in a home — they reproduce quickly. As per the EPA, female bed bugs can lay 1-3 eggs a day and 200-500 eggs throughout her life. The insects also can survive, well, a lot — they are fine everywhere from 46°F to 112°F.
And while they usually feed on blood every 5 to 10 days (usually at night, like tiny vampires), they can survive up to a year without food. Are these the aliens everyone is talking about?
Entomologist Jim Fredericks explained to CNBC, “We do know that bed bug infestations can spread to new locations very quickly and, once they have, this pest is difficult to control.”
“Bed bugs are great ‘hitchhikers,’ allowing them to travel long distances with people,” Fredericks added.
And while they can travel to other places on clothing and luggage, their spread gets worse in high-travel areas. Case in point? Paris Fashion Week, which just took place last week.
“France has seen a significant increase in visitors as a result of Fashion Week in recent weeks,” Fredericks explained, calling the event an “ideal scenario” for the very-sneaky bed bugs.
How to prevent the itchy insects, what to lookout for, and how to get rid of them
The EPA states that bed bugs easily travel from place to place on clothing, bedding, boxes, luggage, and more. So, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bed bugs is by taking extra precaution when traveling.
Dark spots on fabric may indicate crushed bed bugs or their feces. Always lookout for tiny eggs, and of course, for the larger, adult insects. Reducing clutter in your own home and vacuuming frequently may prevent bed bugs from finding good hiding spots— but won’t do much if you already have an infestation.
So, what to do if you think you were in a place that has bed bugs? Exterminator Larry Bernhardt suggested to Curbed, “I would definitely recommend checking your clothes when you get home.”
“The minute I’m getting home, I’m throwing everything from my suitcase into a black contractor bag, tying it tight, and then washing and drying it,” he added. “Before I put anything back into my drawers or anything like that.”
His second tip? Hire a canine inspector, which are dogs that can literally sniff out the bed bugs and find out if you have an infestation or not. “It’s the most accurate way to detect bed bugs,” Bernhardt said. Well, now this whole bed bugs situation got a bit cuter!
If you already have bed bugs, WebMD recommends going all-in with very hot water. Since bed bugs die when they reach 113°F, you should wash clothing, bedding and other fabrics with hot water and dry them at the highest temperature.
You can use a brush to clean out bed bugs from smaller cracks in furniture. Vacuum often, use a mattress cover, and clean out any clutter so they have nowhere to hide. We weren’t trying to get all “Dexter” on the bugs, but here we are!
Dermatologist Dr. David Kim also offered advice for bed bug bites on TikTok. If feeling itchy, he recommends applying a hydrocortisone 1% solution on the bites.
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