Backpackers cop blame for plague of bedbugs

By Jeff Bell

Bedbugs are back - experts say a plague is affecting hotels, apartments and student housing.

Exterminators are doubling their work and hotel staff are being trained to spot the pests.

New Zealand's popularity with backpackers and tourists is partly to blame, but experts say poor hygiene is not necessarily to blame for their arrival.

Motel Association chief executive Michael Baines said hotel staff were being trained to search for the bloodsucking pests, which have also become a problem in New York and some parts of Europe.

"We have some fairly significant training programmes that we go through to make sure motels are aware what bedbugs are," he said.

"We've even gone so far as to take dead bedbugs around New Zealand so they can identify them."

The technical support manager for the pest control company Kiwicare, David Brittain,, said bedbug problems were increasing around the world, and New Zealand had been hard hit because of its popularity with backpackers.

"Increased travel is a cause because the bugs don't fly and they don't travel far from their host's living space.

"The thing about bedbugs is they will find anywhere, usually within 5m of the bed, which usually means the bedroom or adjacent rooms."

Mr Brittain also blamed the increase in second-hand furniture exchanges and the resistance bugs had developed to weak insecticides.

He said Kiwicare had sold more than 20,000 bedbug products in the past year, double its expectation.

Poor hygiene was rarely associated with an infestation - the bugs were found in expensive hotels and upmarket apartments.

Mr Brittain recommended a combination of pesticides, vacuuming, heat treatment and plastic wrappings that suffocate the bugs to fully eliminate bedbugs and their eggs.

Eric Van Essen, technical director of Ecolab, which provides cleaning services to the hospitality industry, said the insect did "not discriminate between five-star accommodation and backpackers accommodation".

"If you don't eradicate the problem by getting rid of every last bedbug - as in very, very thorough searching of all of their harbourages and not underestimating how small a crack or crevice they can hide in - then there's the risk that it's just going to keep on becoming a problem," he said.

The Auckland Council said it was hard to determine the number of yearly bedbug complaints since it was mainly the individual responsibility of the accommodation providers.


* Infestations rarely caused by lack of hygiene.

* Bites occur on arms, shoulders and legs, with itching that may last several days.

* Treating infestation requires a combination of strong pesticides, vacuuming, heat treatment and plastic wrappings that suffocate the bugs.

* Bugs mostly infest mattresses but also nearby carpets and baseboards. Increased travel and resistance to insecticide are factors

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Mar 2017 19:22:13 Processing Time: 1891ms