Teeny weeny, unseen passengers in a suitcase

SuitcaseSuitcase. Oslo Airport.Photo : Kyrre Lien / SCANPIX

Teeny weeny, unseen passengers in a suitcase can destroy good holiday memories

The bill may be high if you don’t know what you have in your suitcase when you come home from holiday. Pest companies report a lot of inquiries.


‘We’ve had a 50% increase in inquiries from people who come home suspecting that bedbugs have followed them on the journey,’ said Hans Sætrum, general manager of Oslo Veggdyrkontrol.

Pest control technician, Erling Høie, of ABS Pest Control, confirmed that they’d also noted an increase.

‘We don’t have statistics, but we’ve seen a clear increase over previous years when it comes to both bedbugs and nits,’ said Høie.

Nits don’t live on people, but can occur in large parts of a dwelling.

‘People feel nits, they are very nasty, even if they don’t go onto people. They grow quickly and are hard to get rid of,’ said Høie.

The big scare

However, bedbugs are the big scare for most people. It’s a nightly dweller that feeds on us, sucking our blood while we sleep.

‘Bedbugs don’t usually transmit diseases to humans, but the tiny molluscs can give us itchy rashes, and it is uncomfortable to share a bed with them’, reports the website of the National Institute of Public Health.

‘We have had great pressure from people who’ve returned home from abroad this summer and suspect they’ve carried small insects in their luggage. Many have gone on the trip, and don’t even open the suitcase at home, but come straight to us’, said Sætrum.

‘People have gotten more knowledgeable about the problem, and many make contact just to be on the safe side, and to prevent infestation at home.’

Colossal increase

Sætrum said that there’s been a huge increase of bedbugs in recent years.

‘They were common before and after World War II, but then they were almost gone. But now, they’ve developed resistance to chemicals and flourish all over the world’, he said.

‘This summer we have had one or two bedbug control jobs every single day,’ he added.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health confirmed that due to insecticide resistance and increased travel activity, the presence of nits and bedbugs has increased significantly over large parts of the world over the past 15 years.

Sætrum said you’re not safe even if you stay in a luxury hotel in New York.

‘The luxury hotels can be equally inindated and infested with them,’ he said.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health states that bedbugs are often found in accommodations with a large turnover of guests.

‘Hotels, guesthouses and cabins are typical examples. During holidays or on business trips, there’s always a risk that they are in the luggage. As a general preventive measure, it’s sensible to keep bags, and suitcases closed throughout your stay, it says on the public health website.

Cold or heat

The companies that work to remove the creatures, use a variety of methods to get rid of them. Freezing, heat treatment and vacuuming are popular.

‘We have large machinery, and can fit in all the furniture,’ said Sætrum.

Høie recommended that people unpack outside, to prevent infestation inside.

‘Go through the suitcase, if possible, outside, for example, in the garage. Those who have a bathtub can put the suitcase in it, because the little creatures don’t easily climb up the slippery surfaces. Then you can see if there are any bugs in the bottom of the bath,’ he said.

Shake the laundry well, run it through a sink, or tumble dryer, if necessary. Putting the laundry in the freezer is something else you can do yourself to kill the critters.

But regular freezers aren’t cold enough, so clothes and textiles have to stay in the freezer for a week to make sure that the bugs and nits are dead.

Bug treatment

It costs to de-louse and get rid of a bug infestation. A simple treatment of, for example, a bedroom, can quickly rise to a price tag of 30,000-35,000 kroner, plus VAT.

‘We de-bugged a whole house recently, and the cost was NOK 80,000,’ said Høie.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today