Bedbugs, also called “ bed fleas », did they invade France? Since September 2023, alerts have multiplied on social networks (#redbills). We knew they were more and more present in the housingholiday accommodation… now they are coming to light in the transports (TGV, TER, metro, waiting area at Roissy airport), in certain hospitals and even in cinemas Parisians. Of course, not all cases are proven, and public authorities are calling not to panic! In a press release released on Tuesday October 2 following various reports concerning the Paris metro, the RATP ensures that “all the checks carried out confirm the absence of pests”.
However, bedbugs have indeed invaded the interiors: “ Between 2017 and 2022, more than one in ten French households have been infested by bedbugs. Contrary to popular belief, their presence does not reflect a lack of cleanliness: anyone can be the victim of an infestation in their home,” indicates ANSES (National Agency for Food and Environmental Safety). and work) in a press release published recently (source 1). The scale of the phenomenon is such that the government launched in March 2022 a national plan for the prevention and control of these blood-sucking insects.
What does a bedbug look like? Can we see them?
Bed bugs or fleas are small, oval-shaped insects that feed on human blood, preferably at night because they live in the dark. Also, they live mainly in our bedrooms, attracted by vibrations, heat, odors and carbon dioxide released by individuals when they sleep. “They also live in other dark and quiet places (living room sofas, cracks in the walls and floor, backs of paintings, curtains), where they hide during the day,” indicates Health Insurance (source 2).
They do not jump or fly, but rather move like ants. Unlike lice, they do not live on their host and take advantage of our sleep to bite us. Their blood meal lasts 5 to 20 minutes. Once sated, they take refuge in corners, cracks, curtain seams, electrical outlets, on beds, sofas or armchairs and can survive up to two years before returning to the attack. A phenomenon that is all the more problematic since a female can lay 200 to 500 eggs during her life. Their eggs are often found in clusters of four or five. They are shaped like white rice grains measuring 1 to 2 mm.
Are they visible to the naked eye?
Bedbugs are visible to the naked eye : as adults they measure between 4 and 7 millimeters long, about the size of an apple seed. Their color varies from red to brown, due to the blood they absorb to feed.
How can you be sure you have bedbugs in your home?
Unfortunately, these insects are difficult to spot. We often become aware of their presence after a few months by noticing the increasingly recurring bites or by coming face to face with a bedbug. Their bite is usually painless, due to the presence of analgesics in their saliva. Therefore, some people will not even realize that they have been bitten and others will experience intense itching in the morning, which subsides as the day goes on.
Traces on the folds of mattresses, sheets, clothes…
Bedbugs, as well as their droppings (black spots visible to the naked eye) or their eggs, are generally found below the mattress, at the mattress folds, bed structures (box spring, foot, frame, headboard), sheets, clothing or even curtains. Traces of blood can also appear on the sheets, following a bedbug being crushed during the night.
How to recognize a bedbug bite
THE bed bug bites are often grouped in 3 or 4 on the skin at the level of exposed parts of the body : the face, hands, arms, back or legs. These skin lesions disappear spontaneously within ten days. If possible, avoid scratching them to limit scarring.
Are bedbugs dangerous to your health?
According to a study published by the Sentinelles network (Inserm and Sorbonne University) in 2020 (source 3), bedbugs are not dangerous as such: “although they can transport up to 45 pathogensthere is currently no no evidence that they can be vectors of infectious diseases in humans”note the researchers.
A painless bite, but physical and psychological consequences
Bedbug bites (also called stings) can cause physical and psychological discomfort.
- Bites create a risk of secondary infection, anaphylaxis or even anemia. A medical consultation may be necessary if lesions become infected or if a allergic reaction urticaria type occurs (bright red blisters that are quite painful);
- Their presence can also have psychological consequences for patients who are more – at risk of insomnia, stress and anxiety (which can lead to depression). “As the cost of eradication can be very high, the implementation of means of control can be a significant additional source of anxiety,” the scientists further specify.
Over the period 2019-2020, in mainland France, 72,000 consultations with a general practitioner have been linked to bedbugs. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and PACA regions are the most impacted, according to Inserm. The main reasons for consultations are:
- the presence of skin lesions (98 %) ;
- insomnia (39%);
- the infestation had a impact on professional, family or social life (39 %) ;
- the deterioration of psychological health (15 %).
Consequences on the budget and quality of life of the French
“This nuisance proves costly for French households in mainland France if we take into account the fight and the psychological impacts: income level is a factor in the persistence of the infestation because the fight can prove costly, €866 on average per household,” reports ANSES in its press release. She therefore recommends to help certain households financially in covering the costs associated with bed bug eradication.
Can you carry bedbugs with you?
The main responsible for their spread is often… man. It is by moving your belongings like suitcases and, sometimes, his clothes, or when moving that it carries the bedbugs from one place to another.
How to prevent your home from being infested by these insects?
To prevent infestations at home, you must wear be careful about the objects and personal effects you bring home and regularly inspect your home, including the bed and furniture. So be careful, for example, objects found in the street or bought at a flea market : examine them carefully before bringing them into your home. For the vsecond hand clothingit is strongly recommended to put them in the machine at 60°C before storing them in your cupboards.
Also be vigilant when traveling : always check the condition of bedding and furniture At your disposal ; avoid putting your clothes on the bed or in hotel drawers; check your suitcase, backpack and contents upon your return. Furthermore, bedbugs hate temperatures that are too high or too low. If you suspect an infestation, wash your clothes at 60°C (whether they have been worn or not); Vacuum your suitcases and immediately throw the vacuum cleaner bag into a tightly closed plastic bag.
How to get rid of bed bugs ?
If you notice the presence of bedbugs in your home, you must act quickly. The longer you wait, the more bedbugs will move into other rooms in the home and into other accommodations.
Clean your apartment from top to bottom first
- Disinfect the mattress : Spray the mattress and surfaces with rubbing alcohol or sprinkle them with diatomaceous earth. It is also possible to buy an insecticide spray in a specialized store.
- Vacuum everywhere in the home including on furniture, bedding, curtains and on the back of paintings. Then throw the bag outside, after having closed it tightly;
- You can also use a steam cleaner to burn those who hide in the cracks;
- To eliminate parasites, wash your laundry at 60°C. Textiles and objects that cannot be washed at this temperature should be washed in the dryer for 30 minutes at the highest temperature; or go to freezer at -20°C for 72 hours;
- You can also clean your home with steam at 120°C;
- If necessary, get rid of some furniturewallpaper, carpets (avoiding storing them in the common areas of buildings).
Against bed fleas, call on professionals most often
If these measures are not enough to eliminate bedbugs, there is only one solution: call a decontamination companypreferably a company that has received a Certibiocide certificate issued by the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition for less than 5 years. At least two interventions will be necessary, approximately 2 weeks apart.
To find a trusted professional in each department: consult the website of the Chambre Syndicale des industries de disinfection, disinsectisation et rodatisation (CS3D). You can also consult the hygiene department of your municipality.
- In 2019, the Disinfection, Disinfestation, Pest Control (CS3D) Trade Union Chamber identified 540 000 interventions concerning bedbugs (compared to 200,000 in 2017 and 400,000 in 2018);
- Faced with their multiplication, the government has put in place a toll-free number : 0 806 706 806 and a dedicated site: https://stop-punaises.beta.gouv.fr/
ANSES recommends alternative methods rather than chemical insecticides
Whether the fight is carried out by individuals or professionals, the Agency recommends favoring non-chemical methodsas the treatment by dry heat or freezing, indicates another ANSES press release published in 2022 (source 4). “The use of chemicals can cause poisoning, increase resistance to insecticides and therefore reduce their effectiveness and, more generally, contribute to polluting the environment. However, if the infestation persists, the pest control professionals will be able to use chemical products whose effectiveness and risks have been evaluated within the framework of a marketing authorization”.