Bed bugs on the increase in Australia too

by nobugsonme on July 11, 2008 · 13 comments

in australia, bed bug bites, bed bugs

It turns out the newscaster’s classic and so-tired opening to a bed bug story: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is only marginally more interesting when delivered in a different accent.

Nonetheless, I was interested to see this news report from Down Under, on Today Tonight (If the right video doesn’t load, click “Bed Bugs on the Increase” under Video Archives. And hurry — it may not last long.)

The video features families who encountered bed bugs (experiencing as many as 75-100 bed bug bites) in four-star hotels in Brisbane and Perth, including a man who inspected his luggage after one of these encounters found 40-60 bed bugs on his suitcase.

The people interviewed reported on a range of bed bug bite presentations (from small scabby bites to large wheals), and there was footage of some of the variations, and of (unfortunately) really badly bitten people.

The report also veers off into the related but lesser perils of dirty mattresses — fungi, dust and dirt — and a man demonstrates UV sanitation for those purposes. This is kind of a distraction, since bed bugs are really a different scenario, and can afflict even those with clean homes and brand new mattresses.

However, the key component of the report, for me, was seeing the famous medical entomologist Stephen Doggett, who wrote and revised the Bed Bug Code of Practice (you can download the Nov. 2007 second edition here).

He reports (and we’ve heard this statistic before) that bed bugs in Australia have increased 5000% since 1999.

Because Doggett’s first bed bug code of practice was published in 2005, we often think of Australia as being ahead of many countries in the game of dealing with bed bugs.

But an Australian friend’s comments recently made me wonder if Australians as a whole were just as clueless about bed bugs, and just as surprised when they encountered bed bugs, as we Americans are. My friend did not know bed bugs were something to be concerned about, didn’t seem to know of anyone who’d had them (“know” being the key word here).

“You Americans!” he said.

He says this a lot, in fact, and I often have to nod in agreement.

But in this case, he’s wrong. Bed bugs are, unfortunately, now as Australian as vegemite, Foster’s, Dame Edna, and Rupert Murdoch, and Aussies need to know they’re out there and how to avoid them at home and abroad, and how to get rid of them if need be.

(We’re with Stephen Doggett: get a professional in.)

Thanks to the Aussie reader who sent the link for this report!

1 Cody July 11, 2008 at 3:01 am

I emailed them about how they said at one part of the report the bugs can be “simply fumigated” and set them right.

They called me and I told them my recent battle with them and how I’m taking my landlord to court. They asked for some photos and my legal references, and I’ve sent them over.

Hey I might be on the same show soon 🙂 Maybe I can give them some better facts this time!

2 nobugsonme July 11, 2008 at 9:42 am

Good for you, Cody. You’re right — that comment about fumigation was way off.

3 RemUVe technician July 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

The mattress segment which you were referring to was actually shot back in 2006 and only showed a portion of their business model.

But as you know the media love to put their twist on things, possibly unintentionally and the story sometimes gets distorted eg. comments like you are sleeping with millions of bed bugs every night
Dust mites and bed bugs get mixed up and sometimes cause a little confusion.
As a result, the Australian public know very little on the subject on bed bugs along with some of the Pest Control industry. Obviously there are companies trained to deal with bed bugs but from our experience there are equally as many who have no idea.

I also agree – get a specialised pest manager in

4 nobugsonme July 11, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Thanks RemUVe technician,

Do you also perform the UV services depicted, and can you tell us if they are being used against bed bugs, and how?


5 Cody July 12, 2008 at 12:55 am

On the remuve website they mention the bed bug code of practice – so maybe they assist a pest controller with a portion of it?

6 Angela July 12, 2008 at 1:54 am

You are right nobugs, Australians have no idea what bedbugs are. I picked up bedbugs from a friend because even though she told me she had them, I had no idea what they were. Because we didn’t react to them we possibly had them for up to 4 months before I saw one. I didn’t tell very many people that I had them, but those that I did tell thought that I was talking about mites.
My first pest controller told me that my dog brought them in from outside, obviously he didn’t have much success. Am happy to say that I finally did get rid of them, but it took alot of phone calls to idiotic PCO’s to get the right one who did an excellent job and got rid of them the first visit using a combination of steam and spraying. After reading the advice on this site I tried calling possibly 10-12 pcos and I had 2 that I was willing to chose from.
I also have relatives in NZ who have absolutely no idea and think that it isn’t possible for them to get them because it is so cold but it seems by the map they are on the increase there as well and I try to tell them this but they don’t want to listen.

7 nobugsonme July 12, 2008 at 2:52 am

Interesting, Cody!

Angela, sorry for your infestation.

(I should have “Sorry for your bed bug infestation” cards printed, but then they’d add to the clutter people usually have to clear to deal with bed bugs!)

Anyway, yes– your relatives in NZ are in for a shock. Alaska has a bed bug problem. The map shows bed bugs in northern Canada.

And New Zealand looks to be as bad as Oz.

8 RemUVe technician July 12, 2008 at 9:37 am

Hi There,

The UV system that you may have seen has nothing to do with bed bugs and will not kill them, it was designed purely for the purpose of sanitising mattresses in Hotels.
Upon detection of bed bugs we call an Australian pest control governing body who gives us a list of companies in the area who have specific training in Bed Bugs, we then pass the information on.
However the technicians are trained to inspect for bed bugs because if they were not then there is the risk of spreading the bugs through the property.
I will also add to the assumption of all Australians knowing about Bed Bugs, the fact is most Pest Controllers know little about bed bugs.

9 nobugsonme July 12, 2008 at 1:05 pm

RemUVe Technician,

Thanks for the information!

And yes– it sounds like the Australian public (and Australian Pest Control Operators) are in more or less the same position as US/Canadian/UK people (and PCOs) as far as knowledge of bed bugs and/or how to deal with them.

10 Cody July 12, 2008 at 4:13 pm

How awesome would it be if everyone in a country knew about bed bugs – how people get them, what they look like, where they hide, the pain they cause and how to get rid of them.

It seems like a lot of work for one out of the dozens of insects (hundreds?) you could potentially find when you get down on the carpet and look. And from that perspective it seems silly to think we can really educate people.

At the same time people now seem so out of touch with nature. If you go to Sydney, it’s a concrete jungle where trees are a rarity. Even now, as a person living in the city, aside from all the pigeons and seagulls I don’t see a whole lot of nature.

And while I can identify some birds and bugs (especially bugs, now – I bet nobody else in my social circle knows what a carpet beetle is) there’s still a lot of things I see here and there that I don’t know what they are.

I think at the same time, getting general information about natural phenomenon to people is difficult! If I could go to a bookstore right now and get a small book that lists the 100 or 1000 most common birds, trees, and insects I’d see in and around my house with pictures and names and short descriptions, I’d buy it! I’m interested in that kind of thing. But no such resources exist!

Even on the net, there’s a HANDFUL of sites run by entymologists who discuss just the rarest of interesting cases for the public. And what are the chances of me taking a few hours of work to go to a University, track down an enytyomology professor (if we even have them here), and get some of his time to identify some of the things around our house, even if he could.

On the other hand, wouldn’t that be a cool thing to do, to collect a bunch of that stuff, take it to them, then document it all on the net? “Hey these are the 10 most common birds trees and insects you’ll see around your house in Western Australia”. That would rock.

If you Google search the news right now, you’ll see a study that was just released that shows half of British children aged 10-12 don’t even know what magpies or an oak tree look like, but 9/10 can identify Yoda from Star Wars.

That’s what I’m talking about. And being an adult isn’t much easier.

(Yeah, it’s a bit bigger picture than I normally comment on, but there it is).

11 RemUVe technician July 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm

The main culprit for spreading the bed bugs is the Accommodation Industry, the reason they have done absolutely nothing about it is simply there are no consequences i.e if you let a room out knowing the room is infested there is nothing anybody can do about it.
There are people paying to check in to Hotels and taking bed bugs home with them.
If they were made responsible and carried out mandatory Inspections for a 2 year period bed bugs would still be about just not in the epidemic proportions we see today

12 sally February 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

could you adleast send some pictures of the bed bugs tank you!!!!

13 nobugsonme February 6, 2009 at 1:32 am

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