Bed bugs supposedly spotted in the UK: Here's how to protect yourself on public transport

A video supposedly showing a bed bug on a passenger on the Victoria Line has fueled the fear of bed bugs crossing the Channel. This is what you should do to protect yourself.

Bed Bugs UK London Protection infestation treatment tips
© John Downer & Sally Anscombe / GETTY IMAGES
Bed Bugs UK London Protection infestation treatment tips

Paris has been making headlines recently but not about its beauty or its President. No, Paris is making waves about its pest. Not rats though, bed bugs. The tiny creatures have been driving French people crazy since the beginning of October after they were spotted in many public places.

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It was only a matter of time for the French paranoia to cross the Channel. In a very relevant manner, British people have been asking how the British government will be preventing the infestation from spreading as Paris and London share a train.

Now, on 10 October 2023, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that the bed bugs being in London is a ‘real source of concern’ without confirming their presence. But a viral video showing a supposed bed bug on the Victoria Line is causing panic.

Bed bugs in the UK

While the paranoia is normal and understandable, it is important to remember that bed bugs have always been present in the UK. The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) is currently not aware of ‘an increase in bed bugs activity.’

Natalie Bungay who works at BPCA explained to BBC:

There was a dip during Covid-19 due to the lack of global travel taking place, so any increase now could just be trends getting back to normal now that everybody is moving freely again.

Moreover, on top of this, the viral video does not prove that bed bugs are on the London tube as from the video it is impossible to tell what the insect is or if it's alive. This doesn't stop people from worrying and Luton Council has reported an ‘alarming amount of calls’ concerning bed bugs. However, while citizens might be worried, Bungay from BPCA reminds the public that:

not every call out for bedbugs will result in a positive identification of the pest - increased media attention or public awareness can often lead to false alarms.

Treatment of trains and tube

In response to the worries of UK citizens, Sadiq Khan and Transport for London said that they would be monitoring the situation and ‘disinfecting seats daily.’

Moreover, in the week of 2 October, Eurostar said that they would also be taking measures to prevent bed bugs travelling from Paris to London.

How to protect yourself when you have to take public transport

Taking public transport is part of a daily routine for millions of people. Since COVID-19, most of us are hyper aware that taking public transport can pose a risk to our health and we are now becoming aware that public transport can carry more than germs.

However, it is not always possible to avoid the tube, bus or train as life must carry on. So what can you do to protect yourself?

An entomologist speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio revealed that lavender oil could be a deterrent. They explain:

Lavender oil masks their scent pattern and they can't cope with it.

Moreover, many French people on TikTok are sharing their tips and apparently clove could be a powerful deterrent as well.

However, the best way to prevent the pest from getting into your home is vigilance. As a French person, writing this article, here are tips that have so far prevented me from getting infested.

No bags into my room or on the couch

This was something to adapt to. It was such a habit to put my backpack on the couch as soon as I got home.

Now, no bag makes it onto an upholstered surface. Indeed, fabric is the place where bed bugs thrive.

No outside clothes inside

This tip is not the most glamorous but so far it has worked. As soon as I get home, I take off all my clothes and put them in plastic bags and change into inside clothes.

It’s a bit of a hassle but bed bugs are very instinctive and are known to be able to sense humans.

High temperature washes

Once I’m done with my work day, I take the clothes that were in plastic bags and I wash them at 60 degrees. If they cannot be washed at high temperatures then the freezer can be an option as well.

When it comes to my sheets, I look for potential traces of bed bugs every day.

Read more:

Paris Bed Bugs: This is how you properly check your bed for bed bugs

Paris Bed Bug infestation: How to tell the difference between theirs and mosquito bites?


BBC News: Bedbugs: Luton Council receives 'alarming number' of calls

Mail Online: Have the French bedbugs invaded the London Underground? Panic as Sadiq Khan warns that London Underground could be overwhelmed by insects which have made life in Paris hell

Paris Bed Bugs: This is how you properly check your bed for bed bugs Paris Bed Bugs: This is how you properly check your bed for bed bugs