24 February 2011: Environmental health experts have warned of a dramatic increase in incidences of bed bugs and cockroaches.

Members of the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland (REHIS) gathered in Glasgow today to discuss the rise in incidences of bed bugs and cockroaches across Scotland and share best practice on how to deal with the growing problem which is also being experienced in cities across the globe.

Keynote speaker, Oliver Madge from the Bed Bug Foundation said: “Everyone needs to understand that this is a significant problem being experienced in high density cities across the world. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not a thing of the past and are very much a current problem and one that is increasing and that needs to be addressed now.”

Andrew McPherson, on behalf of REHIS,added: “Despite common misconceptions, bed bugs are not the sole domain of the poorer parts of our communities as they are found in more affluent areas too. Their name is also a bit of a misnomer as bed bugs will be found in many different places including shops, schools, hospitals and laundries and in luggage and sofas as well as behind picture frames and wallpaper too.”

And as well as an increase in bed bug infestations there is also a significant increase in the incidences of cockroach infestations in domestic and industrial locations.

Andrew McPherson said: “Many people believe that cockroaches exist predominantly in tropical climates but, like bed bugs, they too are becoming a major public health problem in every city across the world, including here in Scotland. Similar to bed bugs, their presence appears to be enhanced by, but not limited to, a change in climate and the increase in the number of international journeys being made. However the biggest problem is a lack of awareness.

“Clearly there are major public health issues here and whilst Local Authority’s environmental health departments and private contractors continue to work hard to manage the problem it is essential that the public is aware of the problem and of the precautions they must take to help reduce the problem.”

Bed bugs are small, rusty brown in colour with a flattened body and around 5mm long when fully grown. Detecting bedbugs can therefore be difficult, as they are both nocturnal and small in size. However, evidence of a bedbug infestation may be found in bedding and on mattresses. People sometimes roll onto bedbugs while they sleep, resulting in bloodstains upon the sheets. Live bedbugs leave clusters of dark brown or black spots of dried excrement on infested surfaces and can also exude a subtle, sweet, musty odour. They also prefer tight crevices and dark locations where they can remain hidden and protected and they can therefore be found in wall sockets, behind wallpaper, in floorboards and within furniture. Bed bugs also feed on human blood and evidence of small red insect bites on your body are usually the first warning that you may have a bed bug problem. Anyone thinking they have detected a bedbug infestation should contact their local authority or a pest control professional to discuss treatment options.

Oliver Madge added: “We also need to get better at collecting and sharing data in the UK, to enable us to monitor closely the spread of these pests. Australia has well documented records with at least 12 years of research and data from infestations showing an increase of 4,500% between 1999 and 2006. New York alone has records showing that 1 in 10 residents of the city have been exposed to bed bugs which is around 800,000 people.”

Andrew McPherson said: “Like most public health risks, making sure the environments that attract these pests don’t exist is critical for the prevention of their spread. Similarly, if the public are aware of the conditions that attract them they can make sure they don’t exist and if they recognise the signs that the pests exist then they are more able to inform the appropriate bodies to deal with them.”

The global bed bug problem was also highlighted last July by the 2010 Comprehensive Global Bed Bug Study, a survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky.

At the time, Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA said: “The results of the global survey suggest that we are on the threshold of a bed bug pandemic, not just in the United States, but around the world. Because bed bugs don’t discriminate between rich and poor, don’t have a preference for climate or environment, public awareness, education and vigilance are key in detecting and preventing bed bug infestations.”


Issued on behalf of REHIS by Wave PR Ltd. For further information please contact Jonathan Kennedy on 0141-225-0404 or 07799-768968 or email

Notes to editors:

The Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland (REHIS) is an independent, self-financing registered Scottish charity (Number SC009406) whose main objectives are for the benefit of the community to promote the advancement of Environmental Health.

REHIS celebrated its 135th birthday on 20th January 2010 having been established as The Sanitary Inspectors’ Association of Scotland in 1875; the original forebear of today’s Institute. The other preceding body was The Scottish Institute of Environmental Health which was founded in 1891. The Sanitary Inspectors’ Association then became The Sanitary Association of Scotland in 1878; it was incorporated in 1902 and then became The Royal Sanitary Association of Scotland in 1924. The Royal Sanitary Association joined with The Scottish Institute of Environmental Health in 1983 to form the current Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland.

The Royal Sanitary Association of Scotland offered a wider umbrella for public health interest and included Medical Officers of Health, Sanitary Inspectors, then EHOs, and other professional Interests including Veterinary Surgeons and Meat Inspectors. It was also responsible for the education and training of Student Environmental Health Officers and our Institute continues this work to this day.

Over the past 150 years we have witnessed many challenges in public and environmental health from the major disease epidemics such as Cholera and public health interventions such as the eradication of Cholera through the introduction of clean water schemes such as Loch Katrine feeding Glasgow in 1859, through the introduction of drainage and sewerage systems; also the removal of the threat of smallpox and TB through vaccination but then we have witnessed the return of TB in this millennium.

1897 saw the introduction of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 which was for decades the cornerstone of the work of environmental health and was such a robust piece of legislation that it was only finally replaced in 2008 with its successor the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008.

The Bed Bug Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation, dedicated to raising awareness of Bed Bug Management through improved communication and educational excellence.

The Foundation co-ordinates independent research, together with the pest management industry, accommodation providers and home owners to create, deliver and maintain professional standards.