Residents of the multicultural ‘barrio’ of Lavapiés have grown tired of a problem they wake up to every morning: bedbug bites.
The local residents association has been in contact with Madrid Town Hall to demand free social housing for neighbours having to move out of their properties while they’re being fumigated and decontaminated.
Some residents are pointing the finger of blame at Lavapies’ “casas okupadas”, or squats in English.
“We never had bedbugs until the okupas (squatters) came,” one woman who preferred to be referred to as María told Spanish daily El Mundo.
There are those who have decided to bin their mattresses all together in the hope of not waking up every morning full of rashes.
“We called (Madrid’s) helpline for them to pick up the mattresses but we had to keep a close eye on them for two hours because some people wanted to take them home,” young Moroccan resident Nadia told El Mundo, adding that she had clearly written “bedbugs” on the beds to alert everyone.
“There has been a 70 percent increase in pest control services,” Milagros Fernández de Leteza, director of Spain’s Pest Control Association, said during a fair held in Spain.
The first outbreaks were detected in areas close to El Camino de Santiago (Saint James’ Way) in northwest Spain and in the touristy Costa del Sol in the south of the country.
According to Fernández de Leteza, bedbugs are “very difficult” to control and can spread “very easily”.
She did however point out that rodents, cockroaches and termites pose a bigger threat in Spain’s urban areas.
Bedbugs are parasitic insects which feed exclusively off blood. They transmit no infection when they bite the skin but do cause irritation and insomnia.
Considered extinct in Europe for at least fifty years, their reappearance may be due to the increase in tourism, travel and merchandise transportation.