Airbnb blamed for rise in bedbug infestations

Pests like rats and mice are increasing rapidly in the Netherlands. There are also more and more infestations of bedbugs, which almost disappeared from the country in the last century. Animal scientist Bastiaan Meerburg blames this largely on the emergence of house sharing platforms like Airbnb, NOS reports.

"Nowadays we travel everywhere. There is a good chance that we will bring certain animals back with us. Like the bedbug, which hardly ever appeared in the last century", Meerburg said to the broadcaster. Bedbugs prefer to live in mattresses and love human blood. "It is a very small animal that hides in cracks and seams. Once you have bedbugs in the house, then really everything has to be taken apart, there is a lot of work in it."

Bedbugs have become increasingly common in the Netherlands since 2010. "They travel in suitcases and with clothing if people do not have adequate hygiene", Meerburg said. "All those people who rent out their house through Airbnb to a few dozen people do not know who they are bringing into their house. If those people bring bed bugs, cleaning them up will cost many thousands of euros."

An even bigger problem, according to the animal scientist and director of the knowledge and advice center for dealing with animal pests KAD, is the growing number of mice and rats. "Because from 2023 there will be no more mouse or rat poison for sale for private individuals, not even for indoor use." The poisons that are currently being used are very toxic and difficult to degrade, which means the pose a risk to birds of prey. "That is why there must be more attention to the threatening problems. Because once you see a rat or mouse, it happens very fast. They multiply rapidly. We must really prevent situations like in Paris", Meerburg said. According to the latest reports, there are around 3.7 million rats living in Paris - more than the number of residents. 

What makes the problem even worse, is that we know very little about rats, Meerburg said. "How they behave in urban areas, for example. We really have a limited picture. And our latest research into the resistance of rats to rat poison, in collaboration with Wageningen University, dates from 2012. Since then nothing has happened."

The responsibility for pest control falls under four different Ministries, and there is little effective coordination between them, according to Meerburg. He will therefore soon meet with State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven of Infrastructure and Water Management. "I will tell her that it is very important that we learn more about the behavior of the rat. Because if the use of toxins by private individuals will soon be banned, we will have to deal with the plagues in a different way."

Another important tool in the fight against pests is awareness. On Thursday, World Pest Animals Day, a special study day will be held at Wageningen University. Meerburg is participating in the study day as director of KAD. 

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