study of how bed bugs spread in London

by nobugsonme on December 1, 2008 · 4 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bug research, bed bugs, england, london, spread of bed bugs, united kingdom

David Cain is well known to frequenters of the Bedbugger forums, and his company, has now completed a survey of the locations of bed bug infestations in London, with some interesting results the company has now made available.

By mapping bed bug infestations on a highly localised level, using postcode sectors*, the company has been able to both confirm certain theories and discount others about how this pest is spreading geographically.

(The notes tell us, “Postcode Sectors are the first part of a postcode plus the first digit of the second part e.g. SE1 1. Dependent on density, this gives a map resolution of approximately half a mile.”)

The report may help answer questions like:

Why… does the data show such a spike in 2004? And why do there appear to be distinct ‘hotspots’ and ‘corridors’ running through London? managing director David Cain says: “This is a real breakthrough in the fight against bed bugs. Mapping on this micro level has given us a hitherto unseen view of exactly how bed bugs are spreading across London”

“Most interestingly, the research shows that in certain areas (i.e. postcode sectors) infestations have been effectively tackled, with reported numbers considerably reduced. In other areas the problem has remained roughly the same but in some areas the number of reported infestations has risen alarmingly.

Our research also dispels the myth that bed bugs are a universal problem in London but confirms that in certain areas the problem has reached epidemic proportions and that current control methods are simply not working. The big questions are ‘why not?’ and ‘what can we do to address that?’ ”

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Councils were asked to supply data showing the number of infestations reported to them over the last 5 years, by Postcode Sector. The majority of Councils were able to comply with the request and the data has now been analysed and mapped.

The results show that, looked at on a macro-level e..g. by council or by postcode area e.g. SW or even by postcode district e.g. SW8 one receives a totally false picture of the problem.

Only when infestations are mapped on a micro-level such as Postcode sector e.g. SW8 5 does one get a clear and accurate picture of the problem. Across the Capital, we have identified numerous sectors showing large increases with many showing 300-400% year-on-year increases.

In other words, casting the net over a smaller geographical area yields more meaningful data and suggests patterns.

David Cain says his company will be sharing this information with all participating London councils at a conference on December 15th.

He also argues councils should all be tracking data on infestations (and doing so the same way), and that bed bugs should be a notifiable pest.

Want to get rid of bed bugs? Find out where they are, and keep track of how they spread.

We applaud Cain and his team for undertaking this research, and we hope all cities begin tracking infestations.

1 James Buggles December 3, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Talk about a cliffhanger. How are they spreading and not spreading?

The evidence showing that bed bugs are not a universal problem is supported by this blog. Virtually every story involves low income housing. We’ve seen this movie before.

2 nobugsonme December 4, 2008 at 12:38 am

Hi James!

I think the media focuses on low-income housing because those buildings are likely to have widespread improperly treated bed bug problems, infestations which cover 20-80% of the building and which go on for 6 months or 3 years, residents who are sleeping on the floor because they can’t buy a new bed.

It is definitely so that getting bed bugs when you live on a fixed income is the worst. Landlords of low-income housing (including sometimes government agencies and non-profits) sometimes mismanage things quite badly. Landlords of more expensive housing do too, but the tenants have more leverage.

I think bed bugs enter middle-class and upper-class homes all the time but in most cases are dealt with more quickly and discreetly. Many times, they cause great hardship.

Landlords of pricier buildings are more likely to deal with this problem properly (at least when a few people have it) in order to avoid losing even more money.

Homeowners are also unlikely to go on the news. What co-op owner would talk to the news about his/her bed bugs, or neighbors’ bed bugs? It reflects badly on the building and makes the co-op apartments values go down.

Just my impressions.

People on the forums are from a cross-section of society, from what I gather.

3 James Buggles December 27, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Any follow-up on what David reported on December 15th?

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