Bedbugs have in recent weeks gone from being a subject of potential ribaldry to a contentious political issue in France. STAN HONDA/AFP News

Commuters on the London underground have been reporting bedbug sightings. Several of them have taken to social media platforms to narrate their experiences with the bugs.

One such video that has gone viral on social media, shows bedbugs on one of the seats, on the floor of one of the trains, and on the ceiling as well. The instances of bedbug infestations in the UK have raised an alarm among both hotel owners and homeowners.

Another video showing a bedbug on a passenger's leg on the London Underground's Victoria Line has gone viral on social media with more than 1 million views. Such videos have caused panic among residents of the city and potential visitors.

Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on blood and are mostly active in the dark at night. Experts warn that the bugs should be taken seriously, even if they are not life-threatening to humans.

Over the last few weeks, they have been reported in schools, trains, hospitals, and cinemas in Paris. Authorities in France and the UK have begun to take action to tackle the problem. Air France has said that it will ground the planes if bedbugs are spotted on board.

Eurostar has also begun disinfecting trains from Paris to ensure the safety of the passengers. Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan assured that the authorities are taking appropriate steps to keep the city bedbug-free.

"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," he said.

There has been an increase in bedbug populations, but the latest surge in complaints can also be attributed to media coverage and overreactions to sightings in other countries.

What are bedbugs?

Bedbugs are oval-shaped and very flat. They can be up to 5mm long, and their colour can vary between dark yellow, red, or brown.

Bedbugs had largely disappeared by the 1950s. However, they began to reappear in the last few decades. They spread to other places by attaching themselves to clothes or luggage. Increased trade, travel, tourism, and immigration are some of the factors that have led to the spread of these small insects.

The UK witnessed a 65 per cent increase in bedbug infestations between 2022 and 2023.

A study published in PLOS ONE by scientists from Sydney University in 2016 claimed that bedbugs have been becoming resistant to insecticides. The good news is that bed bugs do not carry any diseases that could harm humans.