Entomologist: No reason for 'bedbug panic' in Estonia just yet

Bed bug (Cimex lectularius).
Bed bug (Cimex lectularius).

Even though pest control companies report that Estonia has seen an increase in bedbugs over recent years, according to entomologist Urmas Tartes, there is still no reason for a "bedbug panic" just yet.

"Bedbugs have probably lived in Estonia for thousands of years and there is a very high probability that they will continue to be here all the time. As is the case with all natural developments, which are sometimes considered unpleasant, when there is less of something, we may become lazier in forget about it somehow. A creature that has become scarce gets a chance to breed again in the meantime. It's no different for bedbugs," Tartes said on ETV show "Vikerhommik."

However, travelling also contributes to the spread of bedbugs  as it is this that can lead to them find their way into the homes of people who are otherwise clean and tidy. To help prevent the spread, Tartes says it is best to have a sensitive nose.

"Bedbugs have a relatively distinctive smell. All bedbugs have special glands for self-defense, from which they secrete pheromones. This provides the characteristic smell of a bedbug, which we can also get when we put a berry in our mouths in the forest, for example," the entomologist explained.

Indirect factors, such as the cleanliness or tidiness of a hotel room, can also provide an indication of the potential presence of bedbugs. "I've stayed in hotels quite a lot in my life. In the rest of the world, and in Estonia too, I sleep in hotels a dozen or so times a year. Sadly, I have to tell people that I have not yet stayed in a hotel in Estonia or anywhere else in the world, where I have come into contact with bedbugs," said Tartes.

However, he says it is possible that this could be put down to having generally slept in nicer places.

Tartes added, that once bedbugs have spread out within an apartment block, getting rid of them becomes difficult, mostly due to human factors. "If it's an apartment block, there may be some connections between rooms. (Getting rid of them is) troublesome in the sense of finding ways to get all the people [in an apartment block] to do something about it at the same time, because it's a bit costly and a hassle," said the entomologist.

According to Tartes, just like humans, bedbugs prefer to live in places where there is easy access to good food. "A bedbug will always go to where a person is sleeping, and around their bed. Wallpapered areas, cracks in the wall, or the sleeping area itself for example, that's where we can find them," he said. The first thing to do upon spotting bedbugs in the home is to carefully vacuum the area.

Another traditional approach to get rid of the unwelcome guests, according to Tartes, involves using hot water. "Nowadays, you can even buy steam sprays in stores, and so you can treat these cracks using hot steam. High temperatures are universally not conducive for life. Both of these techniques are safe for people themselves and are 100 percent effective. Admittedly however, one procedure might not always be enough," the entomologist added.

"On the other hand, I'd like to reassure people by saying that I myself have been to a lot of different places and I've really struggled to find bedbugs in Estonia, [even though] I've wanted to take pictures of them," Tartes, who is also one of Estonia's best-known nature photographers.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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