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Invasion of the bed bugs
ALL they want is a decent night’s sleep, but the lives of residents in a Southampton block of flats have been made a misery for the past two months – after biting bed bugs invaded their homes.
Residents living in Milner Court in Shirley have been struggling to sleep tight after a colony of the creepycrawlies moved in.
Some have woken up in the middle of the night to find the insects crawling on them while others have been forced to pay out for new beds and duvets to try to rid themselves of the bugs.
Following repeated visits from pest controllers, the tenants of the wardencontrolled block thought they were finally rid of them this week.
But to their horror, just hours after landlord Southampton City Council fumigated their flats for the fourth time, the tiny biting insects were back.
The outbreak has affected flats on three floors, leaving the elderly and vulnerable residents with itchy and red bite marks on their bodies.
Ben Smith, 82, had just had his flat fumigated, but as he spoke to the Daily Echo a bug, measuring about half a centimetre, crawled across a wall behind him.
He said: “They obviously did not do a good job if they are still about.
“I thought I was finally clear of them – they are just horrible.
“This used to happen years ago but in this day and age?”
The invasion comes a fortnight after leisure bosses were forced to close Lordshill Library on health and safety grounds after it became infested with fleas.
And it follows a 2012 survey of English councils by the British Pest Control Association which found Southampton ranked highest in the south-east last year for requests to deal with bed bugs.
Pest control experts were called out from the council a total of 81 times in 12 months.
The bugs usually enter on clothing, in luggage or in second-hand furniture, but they can also move between homes through wall and floor cavities. The exact source of this outbreak is unknown.
Another resident, who wanted to be anonymous for fear of stigmatisation, also said her flat was fumigated two days before.
But the next night she woke up with bugs crawling all over her, counting 16 in all, adding to the bite marks plaguing her upper back and neck.
When the Daily Echo went into her bedroom we saw a bug scurrying across her bed.
She said: “They make me sick – I want to move out.”
Another neighbour, aged 69, talked of breaking down in tears that morning after waking up with bugs crawling on her recently replaced bed.
She said: “I lifted my sheet back and there was this great big one. I felt sick and thought ‘Oh my God not again’.
“You can only take so much. I just want it to stop.” Southampton City Council said about 40 flats had been fumigated, some up to four times, in a bid to eradicate the infestation at a cost of £10,000.
A council spokesman said: “Bed bugs can be very persistent - even when regular fumigation takes place.
“But we are determined to stamp out this problem.
“Our local housing office staff, supported housing team and environmental health have been working hard to try to support the residents through what is obviously a very difficult and sensitive situation.”