A French hotel paid €1,500 to get rid of bedbugs

Max Malka, proprietor of the Montlhery Paris Sud Hotel, 15 kilometers south of Paris, mentioned that two weeks ago, they discovered a bedbug, which was terrifying.

In response to a rise in reported outbreaks in France and the United Kingdom, his company is among a number of others searching for solutions.

Companies are turning to technology - both old and new - to detect outbreaks early, which is crucial for preventing their spread.

The public is becoming increasingly concerned about the insects, and hotels, transport companies, and local administrations are all receiving questions about the problem.

Bedbug infestations in the United Kingdom increased by 65 percent in the second quarter of 2023, compared to the same period the previous year, according to Rentokil, a company that specializes in pest control.

After receiving an "alarming number" of inquiries about bedbugs, the Luton Council issued guidance to local residents this week on how to respond to an outbreak.

Mr. Malka notes that hotels in Paris can anticipate receiving a case once a year. Guests typically travel with them during the summer months.

In the end, he paid a pest control company €1,500 (£1,300) to eradicate the bedbugs before they spread.

This was after he invested in a new type of monitoring technology developed by a UK start-up called Spotta, which allowed him to detect his case of bedbugs early. He is so proud of his system that he has stickers in his hotel reassuring customers that it is in place.

"It's essential to catch bedbugs early," says Robert Fryars, CEO of Cambridge-based Spotta, "because two bedbugs can turn into thousands in a matter of months."

Depending on the temperature, a female adult can produce approximately 400 eggs during her brief lifespan of a few months.

The embryos require approximately two weeks to develop. Mr. Malka's Spotta device is a compact plastic box containing a bedbug-attracting pheromone chemical. In hotels, the devices are located between mattresses and bedframes.

If an insect crawls inside, a small camera snaps a picture and uploads it to a central database via the internet.

A combination of artificial intelligence software and human observation confirms the capture of a bedbug. If so, relevant managers will receive a mobile phone alert warning. Mr. Fryars compares it to a Covid test for insects, stating, "It's similar."

Before an infestation grows, chemical insecticides or thermal treatments can kill an insect. This should reduce consumers reporting bugs on social media. Valpas, a 2013 Finnish startup, pioneered early detection.

It has contracts with many European luxury properties. Its unique custom legs that have been made for beds have a computerized insect trap.

It raised about $2 million (£1.6 million) in venture finance. Traps inform hotel owners through the internet when insects creep up the bed to bite humans.

Valpas, like Spotta, has had to overcome the stigma associated with the concept of a hotel requiring "pest control" in the first place - it's not the first thing you put on advertisements.

As the bedbug issue gains prominence in the news and on social media, however, many hotel chains now see the value in demonstrating that they are proactive about it.

Hotel owners may struggle to afford bedbug detecting systems. Mr. Fryars of Spotta suggests considering the economic loss from a bedbug outbreak reputation.