Bed bug panic ‘grips Britain’: Commuters avoid sitting on Tubes as they share videos of insects while council receives ‘alarming number of calls’

Commuters are avoiding sitting on London Underground trains amid heightened bed bug fears as Sadiq Khan said he was concerned about the insects in the capital.

The Mayor contacted officials in Paris after the French capital became overwhelmed by an outbreak with in the insects reported in schools, trains, hospitals and cinemas.

Concerns have grown over an infestation in London after a video went viral over the weekend of what is claimed to be a bed bug on a person’s leg on the Victoria line.

But some experts have disputed whether the creature is indeed a bed bug, with one saying it was not ‘flat enough’ and another saying that the clip ‘looks wrong.’ 

Another commuter shared a video on TikTok of what they claimed was a bed bug on a Central line train in West London – but, again, this has not been verified by experts.

A further passenger posted a video from the Northern line, saying they would not sit down because they saw what they thought were bed bug eggs on the seat material. 

Transport for London (TfL) is disinfecting seats daily after videos circulated on social media showing train seats on the Paris Metro crawling with the blood-sucking bugs, fuelling concerns that they will still be a problem when the city hosts the Olympics.

There are also fears the bed bug invasion has reached Luton in Bedfordshire after the local authority said it had received an ‘alarming number’ of calls about the insects. Elsewhere, a bed bug was supposedly spotted on a bus in Manchester yesterday. 

Some commuters have taken to TikTok to say they are concerned about sitting on Tube seats

A commuter shared a video on TikTok of what they said was a bed bug on a Central line train

Another commuter shared a video on TikTok of a purported bed bug on a Victoria line train

However, Richard Wall, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said the insect in the Victoria line video was not ‘flat enough’ to be a bed bug.

He told ‘I’m also pretty confident that it’s not a tick either (too big). It’s worth noting that bed bugs are largely nocturnal.’

And Adam Juson from the pest control company Merlin Environmental said the apparent bed bug did not appear to be real.

He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It does look sort of like a bed bug but the video is not really good enough to ID from. The bug is not mobile so this could be a remnant from a treatment or one that has got caught on the person’s clothes.

‘We have found bed bugs on trains in the past so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility but this looks wrong.’

But David Cain, molecular biologist and founder of Bed Bugs Ltd, told Sky News: ‘There’s been a lot of attention, people worrying about bed bugs coming across from France. But the reality is we already have a large enough problem in the UK.

‘Just yesterday there were videos of people showing bed bugs crawling on people on the Tube system in London. So the thing that sparked all the concern in Paris is already happening in London.’

Mr Cain added: ‘Because the problem has exploded so rapidly over the last decade – they’re now in public spaces, cinemas, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals, all over the place, you then have to check your own bed.

‘The reality is we spend an average of 180 hours a month sleeping in our beds. So we really should give them the respect of 30 minutes once a month to clean them.’

A bed bug was also supposedly spotted on a bus in Manchester following an outbreak in Paris

Mr Khan said TfL was doing everything it could to ensure the bed bug infestation in France does not spread to public transport in London.

What are bed bugs and how do they spread? 

  • Bed bugs are oval-shaped insects with six legs that can reach up to 7mm in length
  • The parasites originated in the Middle East and have been around for at least 3,550 years
  • They feed on blood and their bites can leave skin rashes and cause allergic reactions
  • Despite their Latin name being Cimex lectularius which means ‘bug of the bed’, the insects can be found in many hidden crevices such as sofas and cushions as these are safe places to lay their eggs
  • The pests can live for several months without a blood meal, meaning they can linger in furniture and suitcases for long after their last bite
  • Common signs you might have bed bugs include: Rusty or reddish smears on your sheets, dark spotting from dried bed bug fecal matter, a musty smell in your room
  • Bed bugs can spread via light switches and electrical outlets and be brought into homes by latching on to luggage
  • While bed bugs cause itching and a lack of sleep, they are not known to spread disease and bites normally clear up within two weeks


He told PoliticsJOE: ‘I know people are worried the bugs in Paris could cause a problem in London and I’ve been in contact with TfL last week and this weekend, making steps to ensure we don’t have that problem.

‘Regular cleaning of Tubes and buses, and I’m talking to the Eurostar as well, we have one of the best regimes for cleaning our assets… for a variety of reasons we don’t think those issues will arise in London – but there will be no complacency from TfL.’

Luton Council’s website warned residents it ‘does not have limitless resources’ to tackle the ‘obnoxious pest’, adding treating properties was ‘not free’.

It said: ‘The national bed bug problem has not missed Luton. The Pest Control Service is currently receiving an alarming number of bed bug jobs on a weekly basis.’

Homeowners who arrange a visit from an exterminator need to strip beds completely and put everything ‘into sealed bin liners and placed in the bath for storage’.

Wardrobes, drawers and bookcases must also be emptied and the contents stored securely in the same way. Even pictures and posters need to be ‘off the walls and available for inspection’ and furniture pulled away from walls.

People and pets must evacuate their homes while they are sprayed with insecticide, which ‘can be a lengthy process’.

The council, which has not released figures about the number of reports received, added: ‘You should be aware that no insecticides are completely safe and it is for this reason that the council expect full cooperation from you.’

Meanwhile Dee Patel, an entomologist, told BBC Three Counties Radio that lavender deterred bed bugs. He added: ‘Lavender oil masks their scent pattern and they can’t cope with it.’

He also advised washing linen at high temperatures, vacuuming often and freezing sheets.

A pest control technician sprays an insecticide under a mattress in Paris last Wednesday

A pest control technician sprays an insecticide under a mattress in Paris last Wednesday

A bed bug is seen on a glove of a biocide technician from Hygiene Premium in Paris last month

A bed bug is seen on a glove of a biocide technician from Hygiene Premium in Paris last month

Products used to eradicate bed bugs at the Hygiene Premium pest control shop in Paris

Products used to eradicate bed bugs at the Hygiene Premium pest control shop in Paris

Across the Channel, France’s transport minister Clement Beaune has gathered transport operators to discuss ways in which to better protect commuters.

There has also been increasing concern that the outbreak could spread to the UK, not least because rugby fans are travelling to and from France for the World Cup.

Last week, Eurostar said it will disinfect its trains – of which 16 a day run from Paris to London – at the first sign of bed bugs.

A Eurostar spokesman said: ‘The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our number one priority, and the presence of insects such as bed bugs on our trains is extremely rare.

‘The textile surfaces on all of our trains are cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis. This involves hot-water injection and extraction cleaning, which has proven highly effective in eliminating bugs.

‘Any reports on hygiene matters are taken very seriously, and our cleaning teams, in addition to the usual cleaning, will also disinfect a train on request or as soon as there is the slightest doubt.’

Also last week Mathilde Panot, an MP and leader of the Left-wing France Unbowed party, took a test tube full of dead bed bugs into French parliament to raise her concerns about the outbreak.

Ms Panot said that bed bugs were ‘proliferating in all daily living spaces: Hospitals, schools, workplaces, retirement homes, prisons, trains and even cinema theatres’.

She added: ‘They are making the lives of millions of our fellow citizens a living hell.’

Transport for London has confirmed that it is monitoring trains and buses for any indication that the infestation could have reached the UK.

A TfL spokesman said last week: ‘We are not aware of any outbreaks in London, but we will monitor our network and continue our rigorous and thorough cleaning measures.

‘We are committed to providing a clean and safe environment on the Tube for our customers and staff.’

Data released by pest-control company Rentokil in September showed that from 2022 to 2023, there was a 65 per cent increase in bed bug infestations.

Bed bugs, which are about the size of an apple pip, feed on animal blood and their bites can cause swelling and itching but rarely lead to complications. As well as beds, they can also be found on clothing and furniture.