Bed bugs

Bed Bugs can cause significant skin irritation and disrupt your sleep. This fact sheet can help you understand how to deal with a bed bug infestation.

Background

Adult bed bugs are small, wingless insects, roughly oval in shape, about 5-6 mm in length, rust brown in colour and a deeper red brown after a meal. Adult bed bugs can live for 6 months at room temperature (around 23°C) and longer in colder climates. They require a blood meal for nutrition and development. The cream coloured eggs (1mm in length) are laid on rough surfaces in cracks and crevices of bedding.

The two main species that bite humans include the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, and the tropical bed bug, Cimex hemipterus. The tropical bed bug has become more common in Australia in recent years. There is no evidence to show that bed bugs transmit any infectious diseases but their bites commonly result in skin reactions and anaphylaxis may occur in people with severe allergies.

Infestations

Infestations are typically found in short-stay travel (example backpacker, motel and hotel) accommodation. The incidence of bedbug infestations is increasing probably due to increasing international travel, pesticide resistance and difficulties in controlling them with standard pest management techniques.

Bed bugs tend to shelter in dark locations close to where people sleep and respond to warmth and carbon dioxide. They are more likely to feed at night when people are sleeping. Areas of shelter include under mattresses, floorboards, paintings, carpets, behind skirting boards, in various cracks and crevices of walls, within bed frames, behind power points and other furniture and behind loose wallpaper. Blood spotting on mattresses or nearby furnishings and a distinctive “sickly sweet” or “stink bug” smell in the room is often a tell-tale sign of an infestation.

Prevention

Consider these preventative measures:

  • maintain good housekeeping practices and reduce possible hiding places, such as cracks and crevices to discourages infestations
  • on returning to your home from travelling, check your personal gear, including your clothes and suitcases, for bed bugs before bringing it inside
  • check second hand furniture and bedding for bed bugs and if found treat them with insecticides before bringing them into the house.

What to do if you have or find a bed bug problem?

If you have found bed bugs, or suspect bed bug infestations in your room, notify the owner or management immediately so that action can be taken to eradicate the bugs. If you are the owner contact a pest management technician as soon as possible to eradicate the bugs before they become established.

Control can be difficult due to the diversity of hiding places available to the bed bug and potential difficulties in accessing hiding places such as behind fixed bedheads, light fittings and behind skirting boards.

If you would like to make a complaint in relation to a bed bug infestation in paid short term accommodation, first try to resolve the complaint directly with the accommodation manager. If this remains unsolved, you may contact the local Council in which the accommodation is based to determine your next course of action.

If the Council is unable to progress the matter any further you may lodge a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading on 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

The Office of Fair Trading will assess the complaint to determine:

  • the issues in dispute
  • options that may help resolve it
  • whether someone has broken a law that Office of Fair Trading has the power to act on
  • whether another organisation could better handle the complaint.

If the Office of Fair Trading cannot help you to resolve the dispute to your satisfaction, they may suggest alternatives, such as taking the complaint to a tribunal, referring it to another department or getting your own legal advice.

More information is available from A Code of Practice for the Control of Bed Bug Infestations in Australia and A Bed Bug Management Policy and Procedural Guide for Accommodation Providers.