Beware the Bed Bugs on Your Next Japan Trip

Beware the Bed Bugs on Your Next Japan Trip

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Bed bugs
Picture: mybears / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A new strain of insecticide-resistant bed bug is bugging Japan after making stops in France and Korea. Here's what you need to know before your next trip.

This summer, bed bugs took over Paris. Now, they are taking a winter vacation in Korea. Experts say that their next destination is Japan.

Bed bugs threaten Japan

Japan has reported more cases of bed bugs than ever in 2023 as experts sound the alarm for an inevitable spread across the country.

285 bed bug victims sought help from the Tokyo Pest Control Association by November 16th this year. The figure rose starkly above the past six year’s average of 192 reports.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government also reports an upward trend in bed bug cases from its Environment, Health, and Hygiene Division. It recorded 26 cases in 2005. By 2019, the figure multiplied 17 times, peaking at 458 cases. It then dipped slightly as the pandemic restricted travel and transmission of bed bugs.

However, reports rebounded to pre-pandemic levels last year as Japan lifted travel restrictions for inbound tourists.

With Japan having welcomed an average of two million foreign visitors for the past five months, experts predict things to get worse.

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Tourism and evolution are to blame

Bed bugs

“Due to the mass increase of travelers since last fall, people have transported the bed bugs hiding in luggage into their homes,” says Dermatology Professor Natsuaki Masaru at Hyogyo Medical University.

“I think they’ll spread even more.”

Professor Natsuaki and his counterparts attribute the long-term increase and current spread to the bug becoming resistant to insecticides.

Doctor of Science Shirai Yoshikazu from the Institute of Pest Control Technology explains that it’s only a matter of time before these “super bed bugs” spread across Japan.

As Japan braces for its battle with bed bugs, its neighbor is already cracking down on the pests.

Bed bugs trouble Korea too

On November 3rd, the Korean Government activated a joint task force consisting of ten ministries and agencies in an urgent response to the rapid spread of bed bugs.

Korean authorities recorded 13 cases of bed bugs between September and mid-November. Meanwhile, private companies reportedly found 300 cases between October and mid-November.

While Korean authorities struggle to grasp the exact extent of the damage, they have designated the four weeks until December 8th for cities to carry out sterilizations.

Korean media is calling the outbreak of bed bugs – “bindae” in Korean – a “bindemic”.

In the face of the bindemic, Korean citizens are stocking up on goods to battle bed bugs. Sales of vacuum cleaners made specially for targeting bed bugs increased by 740% in the first week of November.

How to deal with bed bugs

Picture: jumsica / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

One bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs, which hatch in forty days. Doctor Shirai explains how to deal with them as soon as you discover their presence.

You can use a vacuum to remove bed bugs, but make sure to tightly conceal the waste in trash bags before disposing.

If you find bed bugs on washable items like clothes, you can throw them in the washer or bathe them in hot water over 81 degrees Celsius for more than five minutes.

Bed bugs are vulnerable to heat. So using steamers or hot air dryers will also be effective.

The one thing to NOT do, Doctor Shirai says, is to squish them. That will leave a strong stink and stain.

Doctor Shirai also advises that you call professional exterminators to handle bed bugs as the pests can lodge themselves deep below surfaces that are hard to reach.

Also, when traveling this season, to prevent bed bugs from tagging along in your luggage, keep your bags away from beds. Wrapping your luggage in plastic bags can also help.

Once you return home from travel, unpack your luggage in the bathtub, experts say. This can help you wash off any bugs immediately to prevent spread in your home.

Sources

[1] 【解説】韓国などで拡大「トコジラミ」日本にも襲来か 専門家「つぶすのはNG、熱や洗濯が有効」海外旅行での対処法は?. FNNプライムオンライン

[2] 専門家「日本でも広がると予測」対策は?韓国やパリで『トコジラミ』急増. テレ朝NEWS

[3] 韓国「トコジラミ大発生」で住民が大慌ての実態. 東洋経済

[4] New infestations force famously bedbug-free Korea to declare war on the pests. HANKYOREH

[5] 急遽、旅行先を変更する人も…韓国でトコジラミの大量発生“ビンデミック”年末年始や直行便再開を前に猛威振るう 気になる対策は?. TBS NEWS DIG

[6] 市販の殺虫剤が効かない?トコジラミの相談が「高止まり」 一度は姿を消したはずなのに. 東京新聞

[7] 「とにかく夜眠れない」トコジラミの被害相次ぐ なぜ今?. NHK

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