HOMES in the South West could be affected by a potential invasion of bedbugs.
Pest control experts are predicting a dramatic rise in the number of infestations after witnessing similar problems during the same period last year.
They’re putting homeowners on red alert and say those who have been away on holiday could be among those most under threat.
Problems with bedbugs, which feed on human blood and often leave irritating bite marks, have become far more common over the last decade or so.
Experts put the rise in numbers at least partly down to an increase in international travel and say that’s why the parasites are often more prevalent in the UK during late summer.
Now they’re warning people to check their properties, particularly if they’ve been abroad.
“People often associate an increase in the number of bedbugs with the warm weather, but it is far more likely to be caused by trips abroad or even hotel stays in this country.
“Families can bring them home in luggage or clothing and would never suspect a thing. The first time they know about it is when they wake up with a rash which can be itchy for days.”
Infestations of bedbugs are thought to have been on the rise for around 10 or 15 years with immigration, second-hand furniture and second-hand clothes pinpointed as other possible causes. Growing tolerance to pesticides could also be an issue.
The insects, which are about 6mm long, feed at night and often leave little or no trace other than bite marks which can leave small specs of blood on sheets and pillows.
They live in mattresses, bed frames, furniture near the bed and also hide behind headboards or in cracks around skirting boards. They can move through properties through wall and floor cavities.
Each female lays between 200 and 500 eggs which hatch within 17 days.
Treatment of an infestation is complicated and is a job for the professionals, according to Mr Simpson.
He said: “Getting rid of bedbugs is notoriously difficult because they live and lay eggs in the cracks of bed frames and skirting boards or burrow inside mattresses.
“Most normal insecticides won’t kill the eggs and, while people might think the problem has gone away, fresh eggs can soon hatch.
“The best advice is to bring in an expert controller who’ll use their experience and know-how to get rid of the problem once and for all.
“If people try to deal with issues themselves or call in unqualified help, infestations could get out of hand.
“It’s easy to get out of your depth when trying to control pests of all kinds, but particularly bedbugs as their treatment is so specialised.
“I would urge people to use a member of the Basis Prompt register, so they’re assured safe, effective and legal treatment.”