Bed Bugs on aircraft – more common than you think

Flying is not for the faint hearted. You arrive hours before your flight to endure the rigours of enhanced security checks, grappling with hand luggage restrictions on liquids and electronic equipment. Now, the last thing you need, as you cruise at 35,000 feet, is to be bitten by bed bugs. But, it happens and with increasing frequency.

Bed bugs love to live close to their next human meal. They are great at hitching a lift in our luggage and pretty accustomed to international travel so, it’s hardly surprising that they are frequently found in aircraft seating. Not that any airline would like to admit it, but it happens! What can be done to control them?

This was the subject that Adam Juson from Surrey-based Merlin Environmental addressed in his presentation at the 8th International Conference on Urban Pests (ICUP), held in Zurich from 21-23 July.

Adam explained how bed bug infestations on aircraft are a growing concern and how they can have a substantial financial impact on commercial airlines. In the worst case scenario infestations have led to aircraft being grounded – and that costs mega bucks! And, he predicted, that things will get worse, before they get better, largely because most airlines currently have a reactive approach to the problem.

bed bugs on an aircraft seat

Research by Merlin Environmental shows that airlines with a proactive approach to bed bug management, fare much better. They suffer 80% fewer seats infested and almost 70% fewer insects in the most heavily infested seats.

The research was conducted over three years and covered more than 100 inspections of infested aircraft. A wide range of carriers, aircraft models and seat configurations were covered. Cases ranged from single insects, in single seats, to infestation of many thousands of insects, spread through multiple cabins. Detection and eradication methods were assessed. Having found a problem proactively, or by waiting for a customer complaint, which treatment method offers the quickest and best result?

Story from the Mail Online: Jumbo Jet being grounded following passenger with bites.

To assess the efficacy of the available methods, a combination of scent detection dogs and human inspection was used to document the infestation levels prior to, and then 28 days after, treatment. The methods assessed were methyl bromide fumigation by a specialist aircraft company, chemical applications of the two products approved for use in aircraft, Ficam W and K-Othrine and two forms of heat treatment – a closed system and a forced air system.

luggage at an airport

The results show that methyl bromide fumigation was the only treatment which achieved 100% control.

Both chemical treatments produced disappointing results. This is probably because the complex nature of aircraft seating and restrictions on dismantling them prevented the technician properly applying the pesticide. The elevated tolerance profile of field strain bed bugs to these chemicals would not have helped.

In addition, the aggressive nature of the cabin environment degrades both pesticides exceptionally quickly, resulting in negligible residual value to chemical treatments. Even with further approval of pesticides for cabin use, it is unlikely that a pesticide-based approach will achieve the levels of control needed.

Heat treatment being an environmental manipulation technique has many supporters in the aviation industry. The levels of control achieved were the closest to methyl bromide fumigation, although still not 100% effective. If carried out correctly heat treatment has no deleterious effects on the aircraft, however close attention needs to be paid to temperature monitoring. In one closed system, treatment overheating of the environment resulted in warping of plastic components in seating products and cabin side walls. Forced air treatment in particular shows great potential.

In conclusion, Adam said: “Early detection is vital particularly in view of the reduced efficacy of eradication systems. There is also plenty of scope for improved seating designs to reduce rates of establishment and spread. Research into passenger boarding behaviour with a view to reducing inoculation rates would also be helpful.

“With big differences in the approach between different airlines, some central resource which allows the aviation industry to share best practice would also be beneficial.”

Best Pest Control

Bed bug traps and monitors

Bed bugs traps and monitors are exactly as the names imply – you can both trap and   monitor a room for the presence of bed bugs at the same time. Hotels often have traps discretely placed under beds to give an early warning of any problems. They can be used either as a follow-up after treatment or as an indicator before a problem starts.

Most traps work by simply having some kind of sticky pad that a bed bug walks over and then gets stuck. But why would a bed bug find it’s way into the trap?


The more effective monitors and traps have some kind of attractant to lure the unsuspecting insect. Bed bugs are attracted to humans mainly by two things – (1) body heat, (2)  carbon dioxide that we breath out.


One type of trap (Bug Dome) is a plug-in device that uses heat to attract the bed bug. Another type (Agrisense) is a simple cardboard pop-up trap that emits an odour similar to that of carbon dioxide.

The cardboard type are very cost effective and if you have a hotel or guest house, you can place a couple of the under each bed without breaking the bank.

The heated type tend to attract the hungry bugs that haven’t fed for a while and so they are drawn to the heated trap that reaches a temperature to that of humans.

Bed Bug castor trap

The third type of trap is used to prevent bed bugs from climbing from the floor up the bed legs. The bed bug castor trap is placed under the bed castors and creates a barrier between the carpet and your bed. They are sold in packs of 4.

Bed Bugs in student accommodation

Every September our phone starts ringing with calls from anxious parents who’s son or daughter, having left the family nest for the first time,  has found bed bugs in their student accommodation,

If you wanted to create the perfect (worst) environment for breeding Bed Bugs, it would be the student lifestyle. Lots of people visiting lots of others flats and houses on a very regular basis. All it takes is one house with Bed Bugs and within a week, they can be transferred to a dozen more. Then a week later, a dozen more. And so it continues.

student bed room

During September freshers’ week, when students move into new digs that have  been empty since the previous May, the very hungry Bed Bug that has gone without food for months, makes its move on night number one. On morning number two, the fresher will  wake to find themselves looking like the Elephant Man, covered with bites.

Whose responsibility is it?

If your flat or house has Bed Bugs from the day you move in, they will have been there since earlier in the year. But from a legal point of view it’s a bit of a grey area.

If you discover Bed Bugs after several months of living there, your landlord will reasonably say that as it has been Bed Bug free for months, you the tenant (or your friends) have introduced them and its your responsibility. The laws says: Landlord and tenant act (LTA) 1985

Section 11. (landlord) Repairing obligations in short leases.

(1) In a lease to which this section applies (as to which, see sections 13 and 14) there is implied a covenant by the lessor:

(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes),

(b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity), and

(c) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water…

So, does the Bed Bug infestation affect the structure / exterior? No.

messy student bedroom

If the cause of the pests is disrepair at the property (for example mice entering through holes in the external walls) then the landlord may have some responsibility to resolve the issue.

Where pests are present at the start of the tenancy the issue is more complex. A landlord does not ordinarily give a warranty to a tenant that the property is pest free and habitable at the outset of the tenancy. Therefore, it is debatable whether a landlord is necessarily liable for the presence of pests in a property at the start of a tenancy.

However, where a property is let furnished a warranty is given that the property is pest-free at the outset of the tenancy (although no warranty is given that it will stay that way) and where a tenant discovers that a furnished property, as a whole, is infested they may be able to declare the tenancy repudiated, move out, and sue for damages following the principles laid down in Smith v Marrable. However, in this case the landlord was clearly refusing to deal with the issue and so it must be doubted whether the same actions could be taken if the landlord was unaware of the infestation and then took all reasonable steps to deal with it on it being brought to his attention. It should also be noted that in Smith the whole property was infested with rats and so the fact that bed bugs were present in a bed would not necessarily be sufficient to allow the tenant to claim repudiation.

If the property is an HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) then the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations will apply. These create a prosecutable offence if the property is not clean at start of tenancy and it may be the case that a Court would hold that the definition of clean should include freedom from pests. However, this has not been tested to our knowledge.

Where tenants import fleas of bugs into a property then the Courts have held that this is a breach of the tenant’s implied obligation to use the property in a tenant-like manner. In short, all landlords should do their utmost to ensure that there are no pests in a property at the outset of a tenancy.

What should you do?

If you have just moved in to a property and discovered Bed Bugs, contact your landlord and tell them straight away. Don’t wait for weeks. Some landlords are quite helpful, others are less so.

If your landlord starts to drag his heels, you might be better taking some positive action yourself (unfortunately at your expense) because the longer Bed Bugs go untreated, the faster they will breed and it can turn into a serious infestation.

What do you need to buy?

We sell complete Bed Bug kits for students that contain everything you need to tackle the problem and a variety of fast acting and effective Bed Bug treatments. If you can’t afford a mattress encasement to stop the Bed Bugs getting to you, ask the Bank of Mum & Dad to call us and pay for one.

You can call us for advise at any time.

Bed Bug proof mattress covers – a short video

One of the main weapons in the war against Bed Bugs is a mattress encasement. The Protect-a-Bed mattress encasement is the very best bed bug proof cover you can buy. They are guaranteed to be 100% effective in trapping bed bugs on the inside. And if Bed Bugs can’t get to you, they can’t feed on your blood and so they die.IFrameIFrame

protect a bed mattress encasement              protect-a-bed pillow-protector

Once the encasement has been fitted, you should leave in in place upto a year if you can (this is how long a Bed Bug can live without food). Normally you would place a fitted sheet over the top of of the encasement to protect it from stains etc.

We supply them in all bed sizes from a small single upto super king. More information and prices click here.

Facts about Bed Bugs

A few facts about Bed Bugs:-

  • A bed bug can survive for up to 10 months without feeding
  • Bed bug bites are painless – the saliva of the Bed Bug contains an anesthetic
  • Bed Bugs can’t fly or jump.
  • Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures and come mostly at night.
  • The average lifespan of an adult bed bug is one year
  • Female bed bugs can lay up to five eggs per day and 500 during a lifetime
  • Bed bugs are not transmitters of disease.
  • Bed Bugs don’t have to eat (bite) every day.
  • Bedbugs do not stay in the bedroom.
  • The most common species is the Cimex lectularius
  • A crack wide enough to fit the edge of a credit card can harbor bedbugs
  • Bed Bugs are attracted by the carbon dioxide that comes from our breath
  • Not everyone reacts to bed bug bites.
  • After feeding, bed bugs move to secluded places and hide for 5-10 days
  • Females tend to lay their eggs in cracks and crevices to ensure their protection

How did I get Bed Bugs in the first place?

So, you have found Bed Bugs in your home. Probably they have been seen in your bedroom or you are getting bitten at night. The first thought that most people have is: How did I get Bed Bugs, I don’t have a dirty house?

Bed Bugs have no class system. They live everywhere and anyone can get them.  They don’t fly. Bed bugs get brought into your home, in luggage, rucksaks, purses, furniture, bedding, shoes or clothing. They can also walk through cracks in walls and floors.

Have you been on holiday recently?

The most common way for bed bugs to get into your house is through travel or holidays. And staying in hotels or apartments is unfortunately, pretty high risk. See our guide on Bed Bugs and hotels.

Have you bought any second hand furniture or clothes recently?

In these days of austerity, many of us look to save money by purchasing second hand clothes and furniture from charity shops or Ebay. Personally, I would never buy any used furniture. We get quite  a few phone calls from customers who find themselves with more than they bargained for after buying a settee, bed or other item of furniture either online or from a shop. Clothes are not as risky but ALWAYS wash or clean used clothes before putting them away or wearing them.

Have your kids had a sleepover?

Children play together. That was kids do. But has your child been to a house that has a Bed Bug problem. Bed Bugs are travellers and easily hitch a ride on socks, clothes and shoes.

Do you live in a flat or apartment?

Bed bugs often live or crawl in the spaces in between walls and if your neighbour has them, you might get them as well. That makes it harder for you to permanently get rid of them, until your neighbour sorts the infestation from there side.

Have you been on public transport?

Buses, trains, planes etc, are all places where you can pick up Bed Bugs. Just try to imagine how many different people park their backsides on a bus or train seat in the space of  a week. It’s a lot. And it only take one person to leave a bug behind and hey presto, it’s now coming to live with you.

The list of places or circumstances where you can unknowingly bring home a Bed Bug is a long one. But now you have found them, don’t bury your head in the sand. The problem will not go away by itself. If you ignore Bed Bugs, they will for certain, multiply. This is what you can do yourself to get rid of bed bugs: Click here.

Can I get rid of bed bugs easily?

If you have discovered Bed bugs don’t worry, you’re not alone. Far from it. We get many calls every day concerning this fast growing problem. Getting rid of Bed Bugs is not always easy and there are only a limited number of options.

  1. Ignore the problem
  2. Call out a pest control company from Yellow Pages
  3. Save money and deal with Bed Bugs yourself.

Ignoring a Bed Bug problem is not a good idea because it will not go away or fix itself and for certain, it will only get worse.

If you decide to look through Yellow Pages and hire the services of a pest control company, it can be exceedingly expensive with some UK “professional” or “specialist” companies charging eye-watering hourly rates of £130+ per hour. And if you ask them if they guarantee to solve your Bed Bug problem, you might get a simple “no”, or an evasive answer or an awkward silence. To put the money into perspective, your local Doctor gets paid around £40 per hour. A heart surgeon when working for the NHS in 2011 earned an average salary of £60 per hour (£120,000 per year). I think a rate of £130 per hour that some Bed Bug control specialists charge is disproportionate to the skills, training and experience needed to carry out the work.

However, if your Bed Bugs have become well established, the infestation can reach the point where it’s simply too serious tackle yourself and you will have no choice but to bite the bullet and bring in a pest control company. There are lots of good companies that won’t cost you an arm and leg. As with all things, get two or three quotes. Check the hourly rate. Ask how many hours they will take. Ask if the price includes VAT. And ask what happens if you find Bed Bugs a week later – do they charge for a return visit. And ask for references from their customers with phone numbers and follow them up.

But if the problem is not too serious, you can follow our simple plan & guidelines and you should be able to get rid of bed bugs and have things under control. Depending how established the bed bug infestation is, it’s not always solved instantly and in some cases, it can take several treatments before bed bugs eradicated.


The one thing I can’t emphasize enough is a clean mattress. Bed Bugs love mattresses. To a Bed Bug, a mattress is a fast food take-away, with humans providing the source of food – our blood! It’s the perfect home being warm, dry and with plenty of food around. Best of all, a warm human to curl with and bite at night. It couldn’t get any better for them. One way to protect your mattress and importantly, break the life-cycle of a bed bug is to purchase a mattress encasement.

The Bed Bug Plan. You will need to buy:

1). Chose a day when you can treat the affected room(s) in one go.

2). Remove all the bedding down to the bare mattress and if you can, lean it against the bedroom wall. Wash the bedding on the hottest wash it will take. Clear the floor area and start by giving the room a good vacuuming.

3). Light one of our Bed Bug smoke bombs, close the doors and windows and leave for about 1- 2 hours. Open the windows, let the fumes escape then vacuum again. Clean around the edges of the carpet where it meets the skirting board.

4). Spray the bed frame with one of our Bud Bug Killer sprays.

5). And now the VERY important step. Encase the mattress in one of our Mattress Protector Covers. This will stop any of the eggs that will have been laid previously, from hatching in the coming weeks and getting out of the mattress. They will be 100% encased  / trapped and cannot get out at all. If you don’t do this, the problem will only come back in weeks to come.

6). In the following days and weeks, keep giving the room a good vacuum cleaning.

If you have more than one room infected, do both together. If you don’t, by simply walking from your ‘infected room’ to your newly clean bedroom can start the whole bed bug cycle again.

yorkshire bed bug control s