SINGAPORE – Mrs Teh San San’s first hint that bedbugs had invaded her home was a rash of small, red bumps on her eight-year-old son after a vacation to Hong Kong in September.
The 41-year-old then discovered little black stains on the bedsheets – droppings from the pesky critters – and decided that she needed to get professional help.
She paid close to $1,000 for pest exterminators to eradicate the bloodsucking insects, and considers it money well spent.
“Nothing compares to a good night’s rest. It has been weeks now, and our life has returned to normality from a nightmare,” she said.
With bedbugs ravaging popular tourist destinations, including London, Paris and Hong Kong, and tens of thousands of travellers passing through Singapore each day, pest control firms here say they are doing a roaring trade.
The Straits Times spoke to five pest control firms, which said requests for their services have surged between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in November.
Their customers range from panicked travellers who return home to discover they have brought back bedbugs with them, to those who are worried and want to take precautions.
One firm said a customer was willing to pay as much as $20,000 for urgent eradication of these stowaways.
Mr Ian Wong, director of Eminent Pest, said his firm has handled 45 cases in November, about 40 per cent to 50 per cent higher than usual.
“Most of the calls come from those who just returned from their travels, who have already seen some bedbugs or its eggs, or just want to take preventive measures,” said Mr Wong.
He charges an average of $400 for fumigation in a four-room Housing Board flat, and up to $2,000 for larger properties.
The cost varies based on factors like the severity of the infestation and the size of the house, he said, adding that one client was so worried that he paid up to $20,000 for additional rounds of fumigation.
The client, who lived in a four-storey terrace house, wanted every room fumigated four times, as well as multiple rounds of heat treatment.
“To them, it is not about the money… they are worried about the infestation, some even paranoid, and two rounds of cleaning is not enough for them,” Mr Wong said.
Bedbug Specialist’s Mr Rayyan Roy, whose firm has handled 35 per cent more calls in November, also said he has had clients who were willing to pay more for extra rounds of cleaning to make sure the pests stay out of their homes.
“These customers are willing to pay more for more rounds of fumigation just to ease their minds,” Mr Roy said.
His firm charges up to $700 for the fumigation of a four-room flat, and up to $1,200 for larger properties.
These firms say requests for extermination services are coming in not just from individuals and hotels, but also owners of commercial buildings, dormitories and tour bus companies.
While hotel chains ST spoke to said they have not seen a surge in bedbugs, they are keeping up protocols for cleanliness.
Mr Andy Tan, senior vice-president of global operations and partnership at Millennium Hotels and Resorts (MHR), said MHR conducts preventive maintenance programmes through a contracted professional pest controller to prevent bedbugs in its hotels.
MHR oversees hotels in Singapore such as M Social, Orchard Hotel and Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.
Mr Tan said employees are also trained to spot and detect early signs of bedbug infestation, such as small black spots, shed coverings or eggshells on bedsheets and mattresses.
“In rare cases involving bedbug infestation, our hotels will immediately isolate the affected room and its surrounding areas for comprehensive cleaning and extermination procedures to ensure other rooms and guests remain unaffected,” he added.
IHG Hotels & Resorts in Singapore, which manages hotels like Holiday Inn and InterContinental, told ST they were monitoring the situation after media reports of bedbugs surfaced.
Mr Craig Bond, Pan Pacific Hotels Group senior vice-president of operations, said one precautionary measure they are taking is encasing their mattresses with waterproof protectors.
Mr Bond also said the group hires professional pest controllers to conduct bedbug inspections every quarter and have their employees check mattresses daily.
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.