Bed bugs are becoming quite a common problem in Malaysia lately. There have been several cases where unfortunate bus passengers got bitten endlessly by bed bugs while travelling long distance.
In one particularly massive case, about 26 passengers aboard an express bus from Kuala Lumpur towards Singapore suffered from bed bug bites for 8 hours straight. Yikes!
Wondering how the bed bugs got onto the buses in the first place and what they’re attracted to?
Well, a recent study explained that these bugs are particularly attracted to the nasty smell of our sweat!
According to the Guardian, these bugs are usually attracted to the smell of humans. However, in the absence of people, the insects will go to where the smell of humans are strongest – our dirty laundry.
William Hentley, an ecologist at the University of Sheffield as well as the author of the research paper, said,
“It is the first time human odour has been considered as a potential mechanism facilitating long distance dispersal in bed bugs.”
In the ’80s and ’90s, this buggy issue was quite huge. Then, as we rolled into the ’00s, the problem died down a bit. Unfortunately, the past couple of years have seen a soar in bed bug-related incidents worldwide.
Many of these issues have been linked to public transportation such as express busses and low-cost air travels. Apparently, even these insects have learnt how to ‘hitchhike’ from one location to another.
They particularly cling onto bags with dirty laundry rather than bags with clean clothes too. If you don’t pack your dirty laundry well during your travels, you may just be bringing a bunch of new friends home with you.
These bugs aren’t too difficult to spot. We can actually see them with our very own eyes as they are about 5mm long. Before they suck our blood, they are oval in shape, flat, and light brown in colour.
However, after they’ve filled their tummies up with our blood, they become rounder and darker. The scariest part about this bug is the fact that they can live up to 6 months without feeding at all!
Their bites aren’t painful either, which is why many people do not realise that they have been bitten until much later. The annoying part is when the bites start to itch.
Well, fret not as there are multiple preventive measures we can take to avoid these blood-suckers. Here’s what you can do:
1. Keep your clothes in ziplock bags or smooth surface luggages
Bed bugs aren’t very good at climbing smooth surfaces. Though they can still smell our human scent and try to follow us around, they can’t actually cling onto anything if the surface is really smooth.
If you have a cloth luggage bag, perhaps you could wrap it in a plastic bag or cling wrap while travelling.
2. Inspect the hotel before you unpack and get comfy
These bugs particularly stick to the corners of beds and creases of sofas, so be sure to check those spots before unpacking all your things or jumping into the bed. You can even check the sheets for blood spots as that could be a sign of people being bitten prior.
3. Do NOT place your luggage on the floor
Because the floor is lava! JK…
It is really easy for bed bugs to crawl into your suitcase especially when you leave it on the ground. Try to place your bags on smooth and tall surfaces such as the allocated luggage racks, on tables or even in the bathroom where the tiles are.
4. After travelling, wash ALL your laundry, including clean clothes
If the clothes can be washed in a higher temperature, be sure to do so because bed bugs can only live in temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius.
Now that you know how bed bugs spread, be sure to take these preventive steps when you travel to avoid bringing these pests along with you.
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