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The History of Bedbugs in Britain

Bedbugs have been a common problem for humans throughout history, and their presence in Britain can be traced back to ancient times. This article will explore the history of bedbugs in Britain and the methods used to eradicate them in homes and public buildings.

Bedbugs are believed to have arrived in Britain with the Romans, who used to sleep on straw mattresses. Bedbugs thrive in warm environments, and the straw mattresses provided the perfect breeding ground for them. Over the centuries, bedbugs continued to thrive in Britain, and by the 18th century, they were a common problem in both homes and public buildings, such as hotels and boarding houses.

The Victorian era saw a significant increase in bedbug infestations due to the popularity of ornate, upholstered furniture and the practice of keeping coal fires burning in bedrooms. Bedbugs would hide in the folds of curtains and upholstery during the day and emerge at night to feed on the blood of sleeping humans. The presence of bedbugs was seen as a sign of poverty and neglect, and it was a source of embarrassment for many households.

Historical Methods of Eradicating Bedbugs in Homes

The methods used to eradicate bedbugs in homes have varied over the centuries, depending on the prevailing beliefs about the causes of infestations and the available technology.

One of the earliest methods of dealing with bedbugs was to burn sulphur in the bedroom. Sulphur was believed to have a disinfectant effect, and it was thought that the fumes would kill the bedbugs. However, this method was not very effective, and it posed a significant fire risk.

Another popular method in the 19th century was using a bedbug trap. A bedbug trap was a metal dish placed under the bed’s legs. The dish was filled with water, and the bedbugs, attracted by the carbon dioxide that humans exhale, would climb into the dish and drown. While this method effectively trapped some bedbugs, it did not eliminate the infestation.

Fumigation was also used to eradicate bedbugs in the 19th century. Fumigation involves sealing and filling the room with toxic gases, such as hydrocyanic acid or sulphur dioxide. While this method effectively killed the bedbugs, it was dangerous for humans, and there were many cases of accidental poisoning.

One of the most effective methods of eradicating bedbugs in the early 20th century was using pyrethrum powder. Pyrethrum powder is derived from the dried flowers of the pyrethrum plant, a natural insecticide. The powder was sprinkled on the bed and other areas where bedbugs were suspected of hiding. Pyrethrum powder was very effective in killing bedbugs and was safe for humans to use.

Historical Methods of Eradicating Bedbugs in Public Buildings

Bedbugs were a common problem in public buildings such as hotels and boarding houses, and their presence could lead to a loss of business. To combat the problem, public health authorities developed several strategies to eradicate bedbugs from these buildings.

One of the most common strategies was to fumigate the entire building with toxic gases. This time-consuming and expensive process required the building to be vacated for several days. However, it was effective in killing bedbugs and other pests.

Another strategy was to use bedbug detectors. Bedbug detectors were small, flat devices that were placed between the mattress and the bed frame. The devices contained a sticky substance that would trap any bedbugs that crawled over them. The detectors were regularly checked by housekeeping staff, and any found bedbugs could be killed.

Thankfully, we have moved on since those times and have much better methods that target the bedbugs without risking human life!

If you suspect a bedbug problem in your bed, then please contact us today. We are pest control experts and can help you with your bedbug problem effectively.


If you have a problem with bedbugs or any other type of pest contact that needs professional treatment, contact us below or call us on 07443 052851, and our experienced, friendly team will offer advice and provide an effective solution.