Crank up the temperature on your washing machine and get used to the idea of vacuuming every day, because bed bugs have made it to Iceland. Whilst these little bloodsuckers have been terrorising most of Europe and the US forever, until now, Icelanders have largely managed to avoid the horror of waking up face-to-face with a smug insect and a bunch of crimson welts. Exterminator Steinar Smári Guðbergsson credits the influx of tourists with bringing in the scourge, as bed bugs are often found in hotels, where they enjoy hanging out in suitcases until they reach the next destination they fancy screwing with.
Approximately 1.8 million tourists visited Iceland last year, up from 650 thousand in 2012. According to Steinar, now that the bugs are here, resistance is futile. Nonetheless, he still encourages travellers not to keep their suitcases on the floor or near the bed. “Put your luggage on a chair in the middle of the room and close it after you’re finished with it,” he says. “If you don’t find anything during the first three nights, then it is OK to get more careless.”
The common bed bug is a parasitic insect best known for its exclusive penchant for human blood. Their preferred digs are cool, dark spaces like inside your furniture and under your sheets, where they wait until you’re asleep before using the part of their body best described as a mouth to saw through your skin and suck your blood. It sounds bad, but in fairness to them, they do also simultaneously inject you with their own pain-killing saliva. So that’s nice.
So I’ve got bed bugs. What now?
Other than the psychological trauma of knowing that hundreds of insects are feasting off you as you slumber, Steinar says he doesn’t think that bed bugs pose any risk to human health. But while they aren’t likely to cause you any real problems, they’re still fucking gross, and as female bed bugs can lay up to five eggs a day, an infestation can occur quickly. “I always have more concern about the eggs than the actual bed bug itself,” says Steinar, ominously.
So, if you see the telltale signs of bed bug activity, like their cast-off skins as they grow in size and strength, small blackish-brown fecal mounds all over your stuff, clusters of angry red bites on your face, arms, legs or worse after a refreshing night’s sleep, or even the bugs themselves, Steinar recommends acting fast. “Call a professional exterminator right away,” he says, “and don’t move to another room. They will follow you.”
If you don’t heed Steiner’s advice and the bugs are left to really bed down (heh), they can be notoriously difficult to remove. Some adult bed bugs, when kept in cool conditions, have been known to survive for over a year without even being fed. Don’t worry though. The temperature in Iceland isn’t that cool. Oh, wait. Haha. Anyway, sweet dreams, everyone!