Research by pest controllers Rentokil shows that, on average, a single train compartment houses a staggering 1,000 cockroaches, 200 bed bugs, 200 fleas, 500 dust mites and 100 carpet beetles.
Well, blimey! Someone should do something about that!
It’s not that bed bugs and other pests can’t infest train carriages (they surely do), or buses and cars.
But stating the “average” number of insects in a train compartment is just a bit sensational.
Some compartments will be wildly infested with bed bugs, others not so much. I fear that implying every train compartment has 200 of the suckers in it just makes some people think, “why bother.”
Rentokil’s message of doom in the Daily Mail coincides with its launch of Entotherm, a thermal treatment for trains, buses, and cars in the UK.
Of course, I am glad thermal is being used in public transportation and — I assume — to treat personal vehicles which are infested with bed bugs.
How can you hate bed bugs and not love thermal?
However, the message seems to be that, on average, every vehicle is infested with bed bugs, which of course is not true. (And yes, cars can harbor roaches, but not every car will be secreting 20 of them.)
Public transportation would benefit from routine treatments of this sort, if it is economically feasible. Since the economy is lousy in the UK as it is in my neck of the woods, I fear suggesting frequent thermal remediation of the entire fleet of trains, underground trains, buses, and taxis would not go over well.
And let’s be honest: thermal does not keep bed bugs away. So treating every train compartment with thermal is a control measure, but how often can you do it? The very next day someone will bring in new bed bugs. A bit of residual would not go amiss here.
How do we make sure infestations in public transportation are handled swiftly?
Pest control workers, transportation staff, and customers should all be educated about how to look closely and critically at these vehicles — and, d’oh! they also need to look at their homes and other places they frequent — on a routine basis.
They should do these inspections.
They should know who to report to if they see anything suspicious.
And any signs of bed bugs should be followed up on, aggressively.
Update (3/16/2010): Rentokil now admits the research was based on a hypothetical worst-case scenario.