Trains, Metro, cinemas: Why bedbugs are causing growing concern in France

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Trains, Metro, cinemas: Why bedbugs are causing growing concern in France
A person holds a glass vial containing live bedbugs (Photo by STAN HONDA / AFP)

The number of bedbug sightings and even infestations reported across France are mounting with cinemas, SNCF trains, hospitals and even the Paris Metro all affected.


Longstanding advice for how to avoid bedbugs has typically focused on hotel rooms and old furniture, but the pests have exploded in France in recent years.

And things appear to be getting worse. 

A recent study by the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety found that approximately 11 percent of French households between the years 2017 and 2022 experienced a bedbug infestation.


More recently, people have reported the pests in plenty of unexpected locations, sparking concern across the country.


Several passengers on board trains operated by France's national rail service, SNCF, have reported spotting bedbugs aboard in the last two weeks. 

One traveller on a TGV (high-speed) train departing from Paris' Gare de l'Est took to social media, saying that "car 6 of the train was infested - seats and carpet."

Others on board trains with SNCF's low-cost alternative, OuiGo, have also noticed the phenomenon. 

Another passenger taking a train between Paris and Marseille, who filmed the presence of possible bedbugs aboard, told Le Parisien he had requested a full refund from SNCF. 

In response to the outrage from passengers, SNCF has so far denied that any of its trains might be infested with the insects, telling Le Parisien last Thursday that "up until today, no presence of bedbugs have been confirmed".

The company also told France Inter that it follows a strict protocol for disinfecting its high-speed trains, including "a preventive treatment every 60 days, thorough cleaning, in addition to traps."

As of Tuesday, the rail service told France Inter that they planned to check trains "every 15 days for at least one month."


The Paris Metro

On Wednesday, Le Parisien reported that a train driver on line 8 of the Paris Metro system said that he had found bedbugs on his Metro car.

RATP responded to Le Parisien, saying that "the train involved has been taken out of service for expert examination. It will be treated by a specialist company if the presence of the pests are confirmed."


In some Paris cinemas, the horror has happened off-screen. In early September, the UGC Bercy cinema in Paris had to apologise after cinema-goers took to social media to complain about being bitten by bedbugs while watching films. 

One Parisian, Nawal, posted on Twitter that the UGC theatre in Paris' 12th arrondissement was infested with bedbugs, along with an image of the bites she allegedly received while watching a film. 

Afterwards, reports of bedbugs spread, with others reporting having seen or been bitten by them at MK2 cinemas as well.

The UGC group said that they had put emergency procedures into place following bedbug reports, which include canine detection for the presence of bugs, following a high-temperature steam treatment to kill the insects and another canine inspection to verify that the bugs were killed.

READ MORE: Paris cinema apologises after customers complain of bedbug infestation


Hospital emergency departments, like one at the university hospital in Reims in the Marne département, had to close down for a day in order to use a chemical treatment to get rid of bedbugs.

Earlier in the month, another emergency department in northern France, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, had to be temporarily closed after discovering a bedbug infestation. 


Local newspaper Le Progrès reported that a school near Lyon, in Villefranche-sur-Saône, had to be closed for two days in mid-September to disinfect the premises after bedbug sightings.

How can I get rid of bedbugs?

Bedbugs have become more common in recent years, both in France and across the world, in part due to an increase in travel, as well as bedbugs becoming resistant to common insecticides.

If you have bites on your arms and legs, and/or traces of blood on your sheets, then you might want to check for bedbugs. Concentrations of small black dots tend to be a sign of bedbugs.


For individuals, there are a few options for killing bedbugs, which include steam and chemical treatments. People can also place their items in extreme heat (eg. a dryer for at least 20 minutes) or in cold temperatures (eg. refrigerator for multiple days). 

When choosing a service, individuals should double check that the company has relevant accreditations, such as membership in the CS3A union or demonstration of the 'Certibiocide' which is a certification that government-verified training has taken place to handle toxic chemicals.

If the company offers canine detection services, you can ask whether or not they are qualified according to the standards of the 'Union of experts in canine bedbug detection' (Le Syndicat des Experts de Détection Canine de Punaises de Lit or SEDCPL).

READ MORE: Bedbugs, mice, and mould: How to handle infestations in your French home

Are there any ways I can avoid bedbugs?

First learn how to recognise a bedbug - they are approximately four to seven milimeters long and brown to purple in colour.  

Before you sit down in a fabric-covered chair - whether that is at the cinema or on a train - look the area over with the flashlight on your phone. 

Bedbugs tend to hide in dark spaces, and usually they do not come out during the day, so they can be difficult to spot.

Otherwise, try to avoid putting your clothes or bags onto fabric or carpet. For example, when taking the train, you might prefer to leave your bag on the wooden luggage rack rather than the fabric-covered seat beside you. 

When staying in a hotel, you might leave your suitcase in the bathroom or bathtub where bedbugs are less likely to be present.

After you have returned home from a place you suspect may have had bedbugs, you might place your clothes or your bag into a dryer for at least 20 minutes to kill any possible stray bugs.


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