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Bed bugs are taking over Paris

Paris has been overrun with bed bugs, according to visitors throughout the city. Here’s why the insects are taking over, and how you can keep your bed (and home) bug-free if they manage to make their way down under…

Paris is known for many beautiful things. The city is scattered with dazzling monuments, the streets lined with lasting architectural imprints of each historical era. If anything, Paris is considered to be one of the chicest, classiest corners of the earth. 

But though the city has always been a breeding ground for the creme de la creme of art, food, politics and culture, it now seems to have spawned something far less glamorous: a bed bug epidemic. Tourists have reported sightings of the critters in restaurants, hotel rooms, and even on public transport. 

Reports from the city paint Parisians as relatively unfazed (what’s new?) but with the rest of the world’s eyes on Paris during Paris Fashion Week and ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games, not everyone is managing to stay so cool, calm and collected.

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Why Paris, and why now?

According to experts, there are a few contributing factors to the sudden Parisian bed bug epidemic (and no, Anna Wintour has nothing to do with it). One of the biggest culprits is actually the weather. The record summer heat coupled with a crazy influx of tourists in the compact city made for quite a cozy breeding ground for the French bed bug community. 

„Every late summer we see a big increase in bedbugs,“ French entomologist, Jean-Michel Berenger, tells the BBC. „That is because people have been moving about over July and August, and they bring them back in their luggage.

With more people, comes more movement (think public transport, crowds, queues and constant hotel turnover), leaving countless opportunities for the little critters to spread from household to household.

Collective resistance to common pesticides is also to blame for the rapid bed bug boom, with the current populations being descendants of survivors of the widespread use of DDT chemicals during World War Two (yes, that means they are more genetically insusceptible to chemical eradication). 

Lastly, our general improvement with household hygiene has led to a steady decline in cockroach populations, meaning one of the bed bug community’s biggest predators is far less likely to intervene in their breeding rates. 

But as gross as the current headlines may be, bed bugs aren’t all that uncommon in major cities, with the New York Times even pointing out that the Big Apple’s health department has a bed big hotline.

How to avoid the bed-crashing critters

With the bed bug epidemic now taking over the Paris metro, one can only imagine it’s only a matter of time before the blood-sucking insects hitch a ride on international flights around the world. If the thought of bed bugs taking over makes your skin crawl, you’re probably itching to find out how to keep your home bug-free. 

Zachary DeVries, an assistant professor of urban entomology, explains that the insects’ impressive impartiality and rapid breeding habits make total eradication quite difficult. 

 “Everybody can get them, but not everybody can get rid of them,” says Professor DeVries, estimating that professional pest-control treatment can cost up to $5000, especially when demand is high. The bugs are also known to survive up to a year without food (human blood), so without a thorough job you risk repopulation.  

As their name suggests, the bugs most commonly take refuge in mattresses, but are also partial to other fabric surfaces such as clothes, carpets and subway seats. 

If you’re worried your luggage or clothing might be contaminated with hitchhikers, Professor DeVries recommends following the ‘heat or freeze rule’ to kill off any stragglers: either running your clothing in the dryer on high heat for an hour or leaving them in the freezer for two or three days. 

Finally, for anyone who found themselves experiencing fashion week FOMO, take solace in the fact that you didn’t spend your week spotting bed bugs dart across your table.

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