Don’t let the bedbugs bite! Tips to find and repel pests as Japan’s ‘Golden Week’ begins

Don't let the bedbugs bite! Tips to find and repel pests as Japan's 'Golden Week' begins


An adult bedbug, depicted in this image, is usually 5 to 8 millimeters in length. (Mainichi)

TOKYO — Bedbugs are gradually causing damage in Japan after being reported in large numbers in France and South Korea among other places last year. As Japan commences its “Golden Week” holiday period when people travel more often and engage in leisure activities, there are concerns the bugs, whose bites cause intense itching, could spread further. So what can people do to avoid bringing them back home? The Mainichi Shimbun approached one insecticide manufacturer for tips.

Bedbugs, also known as “Nanking mushi” in Japan, fall within the same suborder as stink bugs. The nymphs are milky white and about 1 to 4 millimeters long, while the reddish-brown adults are about 5 to 8 millimeters long. They suck blood by biting exposed areas of human skin, such as the neck and arms, causing itching and swelling. Although they had largely disappeared in Japan by the 1970s due to the spread of powerful insecticides, they began to increase in the United States and other countries in the 2000s and in recent years Japan has seen a succession of reported bites and sightings.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government fielded 458 consultations about bedbugs in fiscal 2019. Following the spread of the coronavirus, the number of inquiries dropped to 320 in fiscal 2020, and 281 in fiscal 2021. But the figure increased again to 405 in fiscal 2022. A metropolitan government official commented, “During the coronavirus crisis, there weren’t too many people who were concerned about bedbugs, but following the spread of insects overseas, more people became concerned, asking questions like, ‘What kind of insects are bedbugs?’ and, ‘Are they increasing in Japan too?’ and that’s probably why the number of inquiries increased. We sense heightened awareness of the issue.”

Tokyo-based Earth Corp., which sells pesticides, similarly saw an increase in inquiries from 313 in 2022 to 975 the following year, more than tripling. The company said that many of the consultations were about how to deal with bedbugs while traveling abroad or prevent them in the home.

So what measures, exactly, are effective? A representative from the company recommends applying a repellent such as its product “Saratect” to the hands and feet, as it drives away bedbugs. Upon arrival at a hotel or other accommodation, it is advisable to first place suitcases and bags in the bathroom before checking for bedbugs in the room.

Bedbugs are good at “hide and seek.” Places to check include beds, mattresses, and under sheets; the gaps between cushions and sofas; behind paintings hanging on walls; and curtain rails and the like. If there are brown or black stains about 2 millimeters in diameter on bedding or other items, they could be bedbug droppings, making it highly likely that the bugs are hiding indoors. “Bedbugs dislike bright places, and leaving the lights on during sleep can reduce the likelihood of being bitten, so wearing an eye mask while sleeping is also one measure,” a company representative says.

After arriving back home from a place that may have been infested, spreading out one’s belongings in the room and releasing a fumigant which works against bedbugs (Earth Corp. has one called “Zerononite G”) can be even more effective.

According to the company, its Japanese language video “Earth Corp.’s 3 bedbug prevention tips for travelers” posted on X (formerly Twitter) had received 1.66 million impressions as of April 24. A representative commented, “Bedbugs breed easily, and it can be difficult to exterminate them once you bring them home. To avoid bringing bedbugs into your home, check whether there are any on your bags or clothes when you get home, and if possible, immediately put the clothes you wore home in boiling water or wash them and put them in the dryer.”

(Japanese original by Mari Sakane, Digital News Group)


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