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‘There is a sense of paranoia’: London students on the threat of a bedbug crisis

Emily should stay in Paris for now


Paris is famous for several things: Fantastic food, passionate romance, and, lately, bedbugs. Previously, the main creepy-crawlies you might have expected to see in the French capital were escargots, but bedbugs seem to have snatched their status.

While these bloodsucking critters haven’t officially made their unwelcome appearance here, it seems like Londoners are already feeling the itch with reported sightings in UCL’s Campbell House East accommodation and on the Victoria Line.

As the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, noted bedbugs are “a real source of concern” for residents of the English capital, we spoke to some London students about their thoughts (and dread) about a potential invasion of these insects.

@lassogold

Minding my own business on the victoria line, a f**king bed bug is on my leg. Said he’d got a great deal on the eurostar and wondered if I could take him home. No!! Sort it out @Transport for London #bedbugs #bedbugslondon #bedbugsparis #tube #infestation

♬ original sound – Lasso Gold

We’ve seen many different takes on these insects recently – including Politico’s article from the perspective of Benîot the bedbug – but what would a bedbug infestation mean for us?

According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbugs are nocturnal and live in soft furniture like sofas or beds. They come out to feed (on you) while you sleep, leaving red, itchy bites all over your skin. And bedbug infestations can be difficult to get rid of, as one female can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime

Since videos about the Parisian bedbug crisis and alleged sightings in London went viral online, many commuting students reported regularly checking their seats before sitting on public transport or refusing to sit at all to avoid picking up the bugs. 

Speaking to The London Tab, UCL student Emma* described how these critters are haunting her in her dreams: “Last night I had a nightmare that I went shopping for a vintage skirt, got bedbugs, then my whole flat got infested.”

@joinsideplus

BEDBUG INVASION FROM PARIS?! #sidemen #bedbugs #paris

BEDBUG INVASION FROM PARIS?! #sidemen #bedbugs #paris

Another issue students are anxious about is the potential financial implications of dealing with an infestation.

Generally, a professional bedbug treatment ranges from around £280 to £1,000. And since the Parisian bedbugs have been found to be resistant to insecticide and other types of chemicals, it could even take several different treatments to get rid of them. 

This would be a huge expense for most students, especially those renting outside student halls. London student Michael* said: “I can’t afford to fumigate my house, and I don’t think my landlord would pay for it.”

Not fumigating your house or flat causes more problems, as the infestation will spread through your home and maybe even to other people. But the alternative for students like Michael would be finding different accommodation – a particularly difficult task in the notorious London rental market.

@helen_christie

Oui 👨🏻‍🎨🗼🥖 #paris #eiffeltower #bedbugs #bedbug #bedbuginfestation

♬ original sound – Payjoeyy

There’s some good news, though. It turns out that if you can tolerate the fact that bedbugs make the hair on your arms stand up and can empty your wallet, there’s not much to worry about in terms of any health consequences from an infestation. Professionals from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have reduced the status of bedbugs to an inconvenient annoyance, as they don’t carry disease, unlike other bloodsucking insects.

Accordingly, some students have shown a far more nonchalant reaction to a potential London bedbug crisis.

Arianna Bush, a final year student at UCL, told The London Tab: “There is a sense of paranoia in general, I can’t deny that, but it’s not like I’m not sitting on the train because of them.”

Second year student Aleksandra Grubic also said she’s “not particularly” worried about bringing back the bugs after a trip on the tube or a night out. “Worrying wouldn’t really change whether or not they came. I would just be paranoid about something I can’t control,” she said.

But we can’t ignore that bedbugs are still gross, and the general idea of insects crawling on your bed at night is unsettling. So, what can be done to prevent or resolve a potential infestation?

Students feeling anxious about bedbugs can take some comfort because treating them without paying a pest control service is possible. Freezing, washing and tumble-drying your clothes are just some things you can do yourself to tackle them at home.

All in all, the problem likely isn’t as bad as you’ve been led to believe. Maybe just be extra vigilant on the Victoria line next time you use it.

*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity. 

Feature image credits to @two1.co, @helen_christie, and @lassogold on TikTok.

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