Half of Europe is subject to an alarm that started in France and soon spread to the United Kingdom and Italy, and the threat seems to be getting wider and wider: bed bugs, bloodsucking insects that proliferate in mattresses and resist insecticides.
The most effective solution to fight them is high temperature. In this article we will find out what these pesky invaders are and how to get rid of them with steam surface cleaners.
The scientific name for bed bugs is Cimex Lectularius and they are scary mainly because of their entomophagous nature, that is, because they suck blood. Widespread until the 1800s, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, in several waves these pests reappeared in the 1950s, then in the early 2000s, and now they are creating great alarm starting in France and throughout northern Europe.
They are tiny, 4-5 millimeter large, wingless, reddish-brown beings. They lurk in fabrics - mattresses, carpeting, upholstery, blankets - but also in cracks in furniture, where they stay hidden during the day to come out at night and feed on the blood of sleeping humans. And they reproduce very quickly.
Their dangerousness is not related to disease transmission, but to the very strong allergic reactions they can cause through certain substances in their saliva while sucking blood. The main problems in combating them are the insecticide resistance they have developed and the exponential spread both in public places and related to travel. The use of steam surface cleaners, however, is very effective in destroying them.
The alarm in France
It is Paris, for several weeks now, that has been raising a new alert for bed bugs, recording a huge spread in public places: schools, trains, streetcars, subways, hotels, cinemas and theaters. In fact, in addition to feeding, these insects also use humans to get around: nesting in clothes, they then go on to settle on the seats of transportation vehicles or on the seats of cinemas and theaters, where they easily find other human vectors to move around. And in the meantime, they deposit eggs and outbreaks explode.
After a significant increase in reports, including in hospitals and schools, Paris City Hall asked the French government to intervene. Many families have had to subject their homes to long and difficult pest control, often to no avail; entire train and subway cars have been invaded; strikes and protests have occurred in schools.
With a very high reproductive rate, the French capital faced a veritable invasion of bed bugs. Health authorities are trying to run for cover, while the public has stormed pharmacies to look for possible methods to pest control homes and workplaces. Scenes very similar to those of the Covid-19 pandemic, and quarantines are not ruled out in extreme cases.
Photos and footage of travelers showing bugs on seats on the bullet trains, the Paris metro, and even in airport waiting rooms are chasing each other on the web. The Ministry of Transport has mobilized and the alert is high ahead of the upcoming 2024 Olympics in the French capital, where the City Hall has asked the government for a decisive plan of action against what it calls "a scourge". Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire wrote in a letter to Premier Elisabeth Borne that "bed bugs are a public health problem, the state must urgently bring together all the players involved to launch a plan of action that is up to the task".
From Paris through London to Milan
As a major European metropolis, Paris is experienced and traversed every day by millions of travelers whose clothes, suitcases and luggage, sleeping in hotels and using overrun public transportation, soon carry bed bugs elsewhere.
Thus, in a short time, these pests are also spreading to London, where some videos on social media showed the bugs on the pants of subway passengers. Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted that the case is "a real source of concern".
Similar cases also involved Milan, where two Australian tourists recounted the bad experience they had after traveling on a train to Italy from Munich: bites and boils all over their bodies and - as they explained on Instagram - the confirmation they received from the transport company that they were indeed bed bugs.
Useless insecticides, steam needed
To combat bed bugs, one must first surrender to the fact that there are no effective home methods and common insecticides do not work. Over time, in fact, bed bugs have developed a strong resistance to commonly used insect control products. The typical spray cans that can be bought in supermarkets or DIY stores, therefore, may fill our house with stains and bad odors and kill flies, spiders, mosquitoes, ants and cockroaches, but bed bugs will continue to proliferate.
One should, therefore, contact a specialized pest control company equipped with professional tools that employ carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Clearly, however, such interventions cost a lot of money and can force people to leave their homes for the time it takes for the chemicals used, which are dangerous to humans, to take effect.
A very effective and affordable method is the use of steam generators and steam surface cleaners. Temperature, in fact, greatly affects the life, proliferation and death of bed bugs. Between 15° and 30° C, these insects find their ideal climate: too bad it corresponds precisely to that of homes. Below 15°C you can induce them to a state of semi-hibernation for which they do not need to feed; but suffering the cold to save themselves from parasites is not an adoptable solution. With a temperature above 60° C, on the other hand, you are able to kill both insects and eggs; but even living at those temperatures is a no-go.
The real solution is to perform a thorough cleaning of furniture and fabrics with a steam generator.
Steam surface cleaners
A surface cleaner is a very useful tool in the home for sanitizing surfaces, floors, furniture and fabrics, thanks to the properties of water vapor.
In fact, it is equipped with a constant-pressure steam generator capable of transforming the water contained in a tank from a liquid to a gaseous state which, emitted at high temperature (up to 180° C), eliminates germs and bacteria hidden in the objects to be cleaned. Bed bugs are not spared from this process, so any proliferation of these pests in the home, public places or transportation can be effectively eradicated by using a steam surface cleaner.
The steam jet produced by these tools may contain a different percentage of water and steam. Depending on this percentage you have different types of steam generators:
- saturated steam with a fair percentage of water;
- dry saturated steam, where water is completely made to evaporate before the jet;
- wet saturated steam, the model most commonly used in professional settings and which comprises water particles within the steam.
For the elimination of bed bugs, dry saturated steam is particularly suitable. This type of steam does not wet mattresses, clothing and other textiles to be treated in the slightest, but it has numerous advantages in treating these pests:
- It does not damage objects and surfaces to be cleaned and makes them immediately reusable without any risk;
- It fixes the problem of bed bug invasion economically compared to the intervention of a specialized firm, with equally effective and long-lasting results;
- It allows action to be taken without having to leave the home, being effective in an environmentally friendly manner that is free of polluting and dangerous chemicals for humans;
- Commercially available lances, brushes and nozzles allow the steam jet to be directed even into small crevices or between fabric fibers.
The most important result, however, remains the total and final removal of bed bugs and eggs, as well as feces and a particular foul-smelling substance they produce to stick to surfaces. Finally, while taking action against bed bugs, the steam surface cleaner also exterminates dust mites and other elements that litter the rooms where we live daily.
Two models of steam surface cleaners particularly suitable for eliminating bed bugs from our home are produced by Lavor and are:
- GV KONE, very compact and powerful, delivers steam at a temperature of 143°C and is ideal for quick cleaning and sanitizing upholstered furniture, fabric surfaces;
- GV EGON VAC 4.1 PLUS, with suction function, delivers steam at 152°C, and thanks to the practical vacuuming function, it removes all residues, leaving the treated surface clean and sanitized. The many accessories included make it extremely versatile and functional and suitable for any type of surface and use.