200 bed bugs in every UK train compartment!?!

by nobugsonme on March 3, 2010 · 8 comments

in bed bugs, thermal treatment, united kingdom

The Daily Mail (UK) reports that

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.

1 carl March 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

Why people panic and go out control? Just clean, vacuum and be happy! 🙂

2 nobugsonme March 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm


It shocks me that someone whose website reports bed bug infestations in hotels would suggest that getting rid of (or avoiding) bed bugs is a matter of “Cleaning and vacuuming.”

Your site says under the heading “How to get rid of bed bugs”:

Give your vaccum a thorough cleaning, before and after. I oftentimes clean mine with disinfectant wipes. For your new mattress, I recommend getting a mattress case. In case of future infestations, you can throw that out.

Really, that’s all you got?

It shows a complete ignorance about the pest you’re writing about.

3 BoAe Kim March 4, 2010 at 2:49 am

I agree that giving an average is disappointing and the fact that the article allows a quote from Rentokil technical director Savvas Othen, “They then stay with the human host” as if it’s impossible to be in a car with bed bugs without taking them home is quite a bit of blatant marketing. But if the numbers are true, that’s a huge population overall. It makes me wonder what our Bart system in San Francisco is carrying. We don’t have plastic seats like the NY Subways. and from the look and smell of them, they have never seen the sight of a steam cleaner or a vacuum for that matter.

4 nobugsonme March 4, 2010 at 3:21 am


I don’t doubt that bed bugs are common on public transportation. And, I hate to say it, but systems like BART which have upholstered seats seem especially problematic.

I would be happier if they got a regular thermal treatment! I just don’t think that this alone will keep the problem under control.

5 Cilecto March 4, 2010 at 7:47 am

>I would be happier if they got a regular thermal treatment! I just don’t think that this alone will keep the problem under control.

Periodic treatment of vehicles would not eliminate the problem entirely, but could reduce the population so that your risk of taking home a bug on any given trip is mitigated.

Glad Rentokil Initial has picked this up. They have the scale and global scope to make a difference.

I doubt that the private bus industry will bite at this, but we have a shot with large public transit agencies.

6 nobugsonme March 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm


But why not add a bit of dust or residual?

(I am actually worried the large public agencies are the ones which can’t fund it, since the economy is so bad, we keep hearing about funding for inspections being cut off, etc. However, I hope I’m wrong.)

7 nobugsonme March 16, 2010 at 12:48 am

See this post for the update: Rentokil offers an apology, admits the research was based on a hypothetical worst-case scenario.

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