Infestations on the rise
Bed bugs are small insects that usually hide in mattresses and bed frames. They live on blood and bite humans during the night. They can be carried in clothing and luggage, when travelling or buying second-hand bedding, furniture, and clothes.
The upsurge in bed-bug infestations in recent years has been due in particular to the rise in travel and the increasing resistance of bed bugs to insecticides.
All socio-economic backgrounds are affected
A survey carried out by Ipsos for ANSES found that 11% of French households had been infested by bed bugs between 2017 and 2022. It also showed that there was no link between a household's level of income and its falling victim to an infestation.
"While all households can be affected by bed bugs, we have nevertheless managed to identify a number of factors that favour infestations: these include travelling and living in shared accommodation, for example"
On the other hand, income level is a factor in the persistence of infestation, as treatment can be costly, averaging €866 per household. In addition to the cost of treatment, victims of infestation are sometimes afraid of being stigmatised, which can prevent them from talking about it and taking prompt action to keep it from spreading. The Agency therefore recommends working towards a mandatory reporting mechanism and providing financial support for private individuals, especially those from low-income households.
An economic and health cost for French households of over €300 million per year
The Agency also calculated the cost of treatment at national level, for French households alone. It came to €1.4 billion for the 2017-2022 period, i.e. an average of €230 million per year.
Added to this is the cost of the health consequences of bed-bug infestations. Although bed bugs do not transmit disease, their presence can have psychological effects and affect the well-being of people whose homes are infested.
In 2019, the health cost was €83 million for the French population, including €79 million associated with a decline in quality of life, sleep disorders, and effects on mental health, €1 million linked to work stoppages, and around €3 million for physical care.
Favour non-chemical treatment methods
Whether infestations are treated by private individuals or professionals, the Agency recommends favouring non-chemical methods, such as dry-heat treatment or freezing. While both are considered effective, heat treatment can be used for an entire room, whereas freezing is better suited to infested clothing or small objects.
The use of chemical products can cause poisoning and increase resistance to insecticides, thereby reducing their effectiveness; more generally, it can also contribute to polluting the environment. However, if the infestation persists, insect control professionals will be able to use chemical products with marketing authorisation, which means that their effectiveness and risks have been assessed.
Before any treatment is applied, ANSES reiterates that the infested room should be cleaned, vacuumed and tidied up.
How should you choose an insect control professional?
- Make sure they are accredited for the treatment of bed bugs. You can find the list of accredited professionals in France on the following website: cs3d-expertise-punaises.fr
- If the professional uses an insecticide, they should have a valid Certibiocide certificate issued by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition.