Great British bed bugs

In the build-up to the London Olympics, with the invasion of Union Jacks, adverts for sport gear and energy drinks, have you considered another invasion – of bed bugs?

The Australian bed bug epidemic was most likely to have been caused by the mass influx of visitors to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Now London is bracing itself not only for a year’s worth of tourists in 3 weeks but a surge in the bed bug population.

Bed bugs are wingless insects which are transferred from place to place by crawling into clothes and luggage. They can hide in mattresses, bed frames and even clock radios. They thrive in densely packed cities and feed on human blood. Infestations can be dealt with by pest control experts who deploy steam and chemicals against the unwanted insects.

Buyers of secondhand furniture are advised to check all items for bugs very carefully and travellers asked to check hotel beds and headboards while keeping luggage off the floor.

In British India it was suspected that the bed bug caused leishmaniasis, such as in Preliminary report on the development of the Leishman-Donovan body in the bed bug, 1907.

Medical personnel deliberately placed bed bugs on patients who were lying prostrate with malaria as part of their experiments.

In nineteenth century Bengal, bed bugs were a threat to army health as well as causing uncomfortable nights’ sleep for the soldiers as they were feared to carry disease-causing parasites.

Europeans were advised to copy the Mahomedans, who shook the bugs out of their beds just outside the house or the Hindus who placed wooden bug traps in their beds.