Bed Bugs in Schools Report
Bed Bugs in Schools, one of a series of school Integrated Pest Management (IPM) webinars hosted by EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM, was presented on December 15, 2015. Included here is the contact information of the presenters and responses to questions and comments.
- Marcia Anderson, Ph.D., EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM
- Stephen Kells, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Extension Entomologist, University of Minnesota
- Steven Morlino, Executive Director of Facilities, Paterson (NJ) Public Schools
Questions and Answers
The questions below were posed by the webinar participants. The responses may have been refined by the presenters following the webinar for clarification or to include additional resources.
- Are the bed bug collection kits available from the EPA website and what is their cost?
(Anderson) No, bed bug kits are not available from the EPA. However, it is very easy to make your own with simple, commonly found items. High power flashlight (preferably LED-type), Magnifying glass, mirror, Ziploc bags (to store the bugs for ID), scotch tape, duct tape or lint roller (to catch them), credit card (to get into tight places)
- Are the pictures on the slide titled "Common Bedbug Myths" all bites from bed bugs?
(Anderson) Yes they are. People react differently when bitten by bed bugs. Some have no reaction, while others have moderate to very severe reactions.
- Where can I find a collection kit? What is the webpage that Dr. Kells mentioned?
- If our School District would want to use your presentation in educating our staff would you make it available?
A recording of the webinar can be accessed here.
- There are two of us watching. We both reg. but we only have one computer. How does the other person get credit for watching?
(Anderson) If you are sharing computers for this webinar please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the names of participants who want to receive a certificate of attendance.
- What is the bedbug hotline telephone number again?
Phone: 612-624-2200 or 1-855-644-2200. https://www.bedbugs.umn.edu/. Exit
- What is the best way to protect yourself when staying in a hotel?
(Anderson) Download the EPA Bed Bug Card for Travel (sheet of cards to print) prior to traveling. Plus explore the EPA bed bug website for more related information. Follow all recommendations. Examine bed, mattress, suitcase rack and head board upon entering. Place suitcases in the bathroom until you have fully inspected your room. Do not place suitcases on the bed. Place them on suitcase rack after it has been examined. Note: Moderate infestations may be hiding during the day and could be missed during initial inspection. Be very observant when you settle into bed for the night. Read this recent story about a hotel bed bug encounter.
- What was the website to see an IPM school plan?
The 47 page procedure/ protocol? https://www.nps.k12.nj.us/departments/facilities/bed-bug-guide-for-schools/ Exit
- Will we be able to get a copy of the presentation? Can the slides be sent out to each of us? When is this available to view at a later time?
Yes. The presentations slide PDF’s are available on our school IPM website. In time, the recorded presentation of the webinar will be available for on-demand viewing on our School IPM website.
- Will we get credit towards are certification?
You will be able to download a certificate of attendance for this presentation. EPA does nog give credits for certification. You must discuss that with your local agency. We will be glad to provide an outline of the webinar contents if your agency requires it. Please contact us at email@example.com if that is needed.
- Will you provide a link to the NJ School Building and Grounds Response plan Steven Morleno mentioned in his presentation?
What is the website he listed for his plan? https://www.nps.k12.nj.us/departments/facilities/bed-bug-guide-for-schools/. Exit
General Bed Bug Biology Questions
- Are bedbugs different? In size color and shape?
(Anderson) Bed bug populations across the nation do vary in shape. Some populations are slightly more elongate than others. All are generally the same size, roughly the size of an apple seed, 5 -7 mm in length. Bed bugs also vary in size according to age. Eggs are 1-2 mm in length, while bed bug juveniles, called instars or nymphs, are between 2-5 mm in length. Colors vary also. Adults are usually a chestnut reddish brown. Unfed instars will be fairly transparent, but once fed will show their reddish brown blood meal in their abdomens.
- Bed bugs are beginning to sound like a tick. Is there any relationship between bed bugs and ticks?
(Kells) Bed bugs and ticks are not closely related. Bed bugs are insects and ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites.
- Can one's pets get bed bug bites?
(Anderson) Bed bugs do not typically seek out cats or dogs. The fur on most pets is difficult for the bed bugs to maneuver. If a pet is left alone in a bed-bug infested dwelling, for many weeks, however, starving bed bugs eventually may find a way to get a blood meal from a pet, out of sheer desperation.
- How long can a bed bug live in the cold, such as outside?
(Anderson) There is little research that has determined exactly how cold and for what duration bed bugs can withstand outside. The U.S. military believes that if bed bugs on furniture are exposed to 0° F or less for four days or more, that may be sufficient to kill them. However, even if you furniture outdoors stays at 0° F for a few days, understand that the temperature where the bed bugs are hiding may not be as cold as the air temperature. Any sun shining on the furniture can raise the temperature. Although you cannot guarantee that freezing temperatures will kill all of the bed bugs infesting an object, you will undoubtedly kill some bed bugs, but there is no guarantee that you will kill all of them.
- Do bed bugs exist as a result of a students' prior living conditions at their own home or just in a residential setting?
(Anderson) Bed bugs are mainly found in residential settings, however both infestations and individual bed bugs have been found in theatres, offices, mass transit, after-care facilities, hotels/motels, and even restaurants.
- How do you tell the sex of the bed bug found?
(Kells) Very carefully. There’s images on the internet on this. The abdomen on a female tends to be very rounded and almost circular. A male bed bug has more parallel sides and definitely has a bump at the end. That bump supports the reproductive organs.
(Anderson) If you can, observe live bedbugs reproducing. Usually the male will rest on top of the swollen abdomen of the female (female bed bugs must have a blood meal before insemination.) 2.) Compare bedbugs against one another to see the differences between male and female. Females tend to have more symmetrical bodies and more rounded rear ends, while the males can be smaller with sharper, end points. 3.) Look at the bedbug's first set of legs, located on the head or neck below the antennae. Females tend to have their first legs protrude higher up on their bodies, appearing to come from the upper neck and even head of the animal, while males appear to have their first set of legs lower down on the neck or even main body
- How long can a bed bug live without a blood meal from a host?
(Kells) Bed bugs live typically somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple months but we have had some bed bugs live up to a year. Most fact sheets say about a year, but realistically we’re looking at two to three months.
(MA) Adults may live typically 6 – 9 months. Most people do not realize that they can live so long without a host. Instead of dealing with the control of bed bugs in their shore rental units, we have found many owners of vacation cottages close up their units for 6 months for the winter. They believe that time and cold winter weather will kill any infestations present. This does not work for numerous reasons: First, the bed bugs go into a state of torpor in cold weather, actually shutting down many body systems, similar to hibernation. Next, many bed bugs will seek out places that will insulate them from the cold, like in-between the mattress and box spring. Third, by the time the vacation unit is re-opened, the remaining bed bugs are very hungry, waiting to pounce on the first warm body to inhabit the unit. The starving bed bugs will get their meal and often harbor in the visitor luggage. The unsuspecting vacationer not only goes home with bites, but often a few unwanted blood-sucking souvenirs. Nymphs will live only weeks without a blood meal.
- How long do items need to be kept frozen to kill bed bugs and eggs?
(Anderson) Cold temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are exposed to it long enough and at temperatures that are cold enough. If you place objects into a freezer, at 0° F all stages of bed bugs will be killed when they are left in it for 7 to 10 days. The U.S. military believes that if you expose furniture to 0° F or less for four days or more, which may be sufficient. Even if you put furniture outdoors at 0° F, consider that the temperature where the bed bugs are hiding may not be as cold as the air temperature.
- I'm assuming bed bugs are not lethal. If that indeed is the case, what is the greater danger of a bed bug introduction or infestation?
(Anderson) Bed bugs are not lethal. The danger varies with the sensitivity of the patient involved and degree of infestation. Patients with an extreme sensitivity to bites may develop large welts that, when scratched, could lead to secondary infections. I have seen patients with no reaction, who do not realize that they are supporting large infestations, who develop significant anemia from blood loss.
- Is it alright for families who have bedbugs to have a dog, or would it be more difficult to get rid of them with a pet?
(Anderson) In general, bed bugs affect humans over furry pets such as cats or dogs. Humans are a much easier source of a fresh blood meal. Bed bugs do have difficulty contending with fur or lots of hair on their way to obtaining blood. My advice: keep your pet, if you already have one. If you do not have a pet, concentrate on the bed bug problem first, then treat yourself with a pet, when the infestation has been eradicated.
- Is it true an impregnated female bed bug can continue to lay eggs, without any further assistance from a male bed bug, for the remainder of her life?
(Anderson) No. She may lay up to 200 eggs in her lifetime, but she must be inseminated periodically.
- Is there any recommended temp for treating items in a dryer on med-high? I have seen BB survives temp less than 120 F.
(Anderson) Driers should be set on the high setting to effectively kill bed bugs.
- Reviewing research studies via pubmed.gov- one article from 2015 identified bed bugs as possible vectors of Chagas. Are comments on this research? Are bed bugs still considered to not transmit communicable disease?
(Morlino) All of the literature that I’ve researched and looked at indicates that they do not transmit diseases. I did read a report somewhere that alluded to the possibility exist, but I don’t believe that that’s the case. Maybe Dr. Kells can be better qualified to answer that particular question.
(Kells)There’s a couple reports. One came out on Chagas disease. They did show that there is a possibility, but actually I would say it’s incredibly low risk. Bed bugs just do not follow the normal behavior that regular Chagas disease vectors are doing to cause infection in humans. It’s highly rare. I’ll give you an idea. They showed that infestations were transmitted by Chagas disease, they either had the mouse eat an infected bed bug or they had the bed bug defecate on the mouse and the mouse’s skin was abraded to allow the infection to penetrate. We don’t have that in normal circumstances so I’d say it’s incredibly low risk to negligible. I don’t worry about it in that case. There was another report about MERSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and that it had be noted on bed bugs. However, if you have MESA being carried by bed bugs, you have a hugely bigger problem with environmental sources of MERSA. I don’t think it’s something that’s a problem. Other diseases that they’ve tried have not shown any transmission, so right now it’s very low to negligible risk for any disease transmission.
(Anderson) According to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and other publications, research findings suggest that the common bed bug may be a competent vector of T. cruzi and could pose a risk for vector-borne transmission of Chagas disease. Studies were conducted in the lab on field mice and under very unusual conditions. Recent review articles (Clinical Infectious Diseases; Pub Med.) 1 - 3 (as well as national (CDC and EPA) 4 and international (WHO) 5 statements note the lack of firm evidence that bed bugs are capable of transmitting human pathogens. As a result, most health authorities treat bed bugs along the same lines as cockroaches: a nuisance and an environmental health issue (CDC). 6
- What is the reproductive cycle for a bedbug?
(Anderson) After mating, females lay white, oval eggs (1/16-inch long) into cracks and crevices. An individual bed bug can lay 200-250 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in about 6-10 days and the newly emerged bed bug nymphs seek a blood meal. Immature nymphs molt five times before reaching adulthood. They need to feed at least once before each molt, although they could feed as often as once a day. There may be three or more generations per year.
- Will the bugs die off if there is no host to feed from? Do they travel from floor to floor on their own?
(Anderson) Yes, the bugs will die if they do not get a blood meal, however adults can survive for up to 9 months without a meal. Yes, they find wall voids, via electric, heating and plumbing outlets. Those voids will enable them to travel from one unit to adjoining units both laterally and vertically. There are a variety of products that can be inserted into wall voids to lessen the risk of transference. Please check for EPA registered bed bug products with residual capabilities.
School Related Questions
- How can we help economically challenged students and families solve bed bug problems at home?
(Kells) That’s a tough one. I would say, first of all, getting them the information they need. A lot of people that are economically challenged, especially if they might be renting their place, might be missing some critical information. They might be afraid of their landlords kicking them out. Trying to talk with them and find out what the source issues are and then working from there. One thing on our bed bug information line will often refer people who are having problems to pro bono legal help or tenant’s rights associations. In Minnesota we work with a number of tenant’s rights people and lawyers to make sure that people are getting the right information and they’re getting representation for what they should be getting. As well, making sure that public health knows about it because in some cases occupancy certificates could be put into question if there’s a problem. It would be nice if the landlord could be made aware of the problem occurring, but maybe not with naming the specific family. Informing the landlord that there may be a bed bug problem and they should be doing inspections is a good way to start. That can either be done by the school or through public health.
- Do you try to find the source of BB intro to your school?
(Anderson) Yes. Review #9 and #10 below for a few effective ways to identify where a bed bug that hitchhiked into the school might have originated.
- For families that acknowledge they are combating bed bugs in their homes and the infestation in the home is severe enough that their children are bringing bed bugs to school in their clothing/belongings- are there recommendations for family vehicles to be inspected for bed bugs also?
(Anderson) If a parent claims to be diligently dealing with an infestation and the student continues to come to school with bed bugs, there may be an alternative source or reason that the parents haven’t been successful. 1.) Where the child spends time after school, before school or with other family members. 2.) Cars and other modes of transportation can become infested. 3.) Parents need to cooperate with the preparation of the home for treatment. If all instructions are not followed, treatment failure may result. 4.) The family must follow the recommendations for clothing and personal school item sanitation. While bed bug treatment is ongoing, it is important to remain vigilant in keeping bed bugs out of clothing and personal items brought to school. Schools may want to suggest or require having a spare set of clothing sent for the child in a sealed plastic bag. If bed bugs are found, have the child change into the clean clothes and place the infested clothes into the bag. Clothing may also be placed in a hot dryer (highest heat setting, include shoes) for 30 minutes prior to the child dressing in the morning. High heat will kill all stages of bed bugs.  (Taken from the MCCSC IPM Plan for Bed Bugs)
- How can Public Health assist with bed bug prevention in schools?
(Anderson) Education is the key to assisting school with bed bugs. Become familiar with educational resources. Develop ways to distribute these materials. Such as workshops, health fairs, school visits, school or neighborhood events, and conventions. Invite and sponsor a bed bug specialist to speak at an event. There are specialists in every EPA region, or check with your extension agent for suggestions.
- What is the distinction between introduction and infestation?
(Anderson) An infestation has the ability to self-perpetuate. If not treated the bed bugs will continue to survive and reproduce. In introduction they don’t have the ability to reproduce and grow. For example a single adult male or immature bed bug would never be an infestation. What gets sticky is when you have a single, presumably mated adult female bed bug. Is she an introduction only? Well, if she lays an egg today does that count as multiple life stages present? The presents of two adults and no eggs may be an introduction only but somebody needs to know the sexes of the two adults
- How do you determine the scale/degree of infestation?
(Anderson) Since about 2009, passive monitors have become an integral part in assessing bedbug infestations in domestic and commercial settings. Remember that just one bed bug is considered an introduction. Multiple bed bugs including a pregnant female are considered an infestation. In an infestation, bed bugs typically cluster together in favorable harborage areas. However, some bed bugs will live by themselves, away from the rest of an infestation. The best way to determine if you have an infestation is to look for bed bugs where you sleep (or rest). In bedrooms, look particularly on and around boxsprings, mattresses, bed frames, tufts, folds, and buttons on mattresses, furniture, such as desks and chairs, behind wall paper, clocks and pictures, cracks in wood floors, and under the edge of carpet. Also inspect couches, recliners or wheelchairs.
- I go into students' homes to teach. What can I have on hand to keep me from transporting to my home and car?
(Anderson) First, do not place any of your materials or computer on a couch or bed. Stick to using metal or wooden tables and chairs. Leave all unessential items in your vehicle – such as jackets or purses. Do not sit on upholstered furniture. DEET sprayed on clothing such as pant legs and shoes has been shown to be an effective bed bug deterrent in severely infested units. Have a change of clothes and shoes available in a Ziploc bag. Self-inspect after leaving the home. When you arrive at your own home, undress in the bathroom and change all outer clothing. Place all clothing that you just removed into a clear plastic bag or container until you are able to treat them in a hot drier for 30 minutes.
- I missed the comment about the prevalence of bed bugs in boarding schools. Was it higher or lower?
(Anderson) It is much higher in boarding schools, as there are many more opportunities for bed bugs to feed on resting/ sleeping students. It is also easier for bed bugs to be transferred or spread from one boarding room to another.
- If you have student / family that admits to having bed bugs should you check back packs, clothing regularly?
(Anderson)Yes, if the student is identified, then containment procedures can go into effect. At school the student could be provided with plastic bags or bins in which to store their belongings in order to prevent any bed bugs from spreading to other students’ belongings. Either in the classroom or nurse’s office. The student may be asked to bring freshly laundered clothing to school in order to facilitate a change of clothes while at school. When the student changes clothes in the health office they should stand on a white sheet. The sheet can then be wrapped up with the clothes and all of it taken to the dryer. The clothes the student was wearing should be dried for at least 30 minutes at more than 120 degrees to kill any bed bugs. This laundry task should be completed by the health aide and custodian. Precautions should be taken in handling the clothing. Have the student place the clothing in a bag to take to the laundry.
In rare or extreme cases, a school may have to confront a situation where a parent or caregiver is incapable or unwilling to remedy a bed bug infestation in the home. These cases are difficult because a school must weigh several important factors.  (Taken in part from the MCCSC IPM Plan for Bed Bugs)
- What would you recommend doing with their coats and back packs instead of hanging them? Containers would take up a huge amount of space for each classroom.
(Anderson) In school classrooms with repeated bed bug issues, some schools provide numbered large zip bags and clear plastic containers. It may take up a lot of space initially, but if provided for each student, at the end of the day, when clothing and book bags go home check the bag and container. If box or bag #17 has a bed bug crawling around, you know the source of the bug(s). Follow this procedure for one to two weeks to see if there are any other bugs sited. If nothing is sighted, then the IPM coordinator / facilities management can stack and store the containers for another possible sighting in another area of the school or district.
If the student is identified, then containment procedures can go into effect. At school the student could be provided with plastic bags or bins in which to store their belongings in order to prevent any bed bugs from spreading to other students’ belongings. Either in the classroom or nurse’s office. The student may be asked to bring freshly laundered clothing to school in order to facilitate a change of clothes while at school. When the student changes clothes in the health office they should stand on a white sheet. The sheet can then be wrapped up with the clothes and all of it taken to the dryer. The clothes the student was wearing should be dried for at least 30 minutes at more than 120 degrees to kill any bed bugs. This laundry task should be completed by the health aide and custodian. Precautions should be taken in handling the clothing. Have the student place the clothing in a bag to take to the laundry.  (Taken in part from the MCCSC IPM Plan for Bed Bugs)
School IPM Policy Related Questions
- Do others have a school IPM Plan? We have a district school nurse who tries to inform our administration but no one who is directly responsible.
(Anderson) Yes. Approximately 70% of the school related attendees and registrants to this and other EPA webinars have stated that they have an IPM plan. Many have also developed their own IPM bed bug plans. I have referenced a few of them at the bottom of this report. For more information on developing an IPM policy or plan please view the resources provided below and feel free to contact your Regional School IPM Coordinator or us here at the Center.
School IPM Resources
- Website | Webinars | Videos | Training
- Guidance - Model Pesticide Safety and IPM Guidance Policy for School Districts | IPM Checklist | Sample Pest Management Contract
- Assistance - EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM (firstname.lastname@example.org; 844-EPA-SIPM) | Regional School IPM Coordinators
- What recommendations do you have for the school nurse who sees a child with possible bed bug bites and is uncertain of how to bring the topic up with a family? I'd like to decrease the stigma and be able to bring up the topic to a family so they know what to look for just in case. Tricky because bites often show up before one can find the elusive bed bug in their home.... I've read that it can take up to 4 months for bed bug population to grow large enough for a lay person to find an infestation in their home.
(Kells) Bedbugs.umn.edu has information on not relying on bites alone to diagnose and I believe the EPA’s bed bug website has that same information or information from other qualified individuals
(Anderson)Yes that is defiantly true. I would recommend that the nurse simply point out to the parent that the student came to the school with a number of bites and that you are just following up for the well-being of the child. Bites can initiate inquiries and educational opportunities. Was the student outside during mosquito activity? Are there pets in the home? Are others in the home being bitten? Because peoples' reactions to bed bug bites vary from no reaction to large welts, there is no way to positively identify if a bite was caused by bed bugs.
- Any suggestions for school nurses seeing student with possible bed bug bites on approaching families? As noted on other EPA webinars physicians often misdiagnose as "contact dermatitis" or generic "bug bites". Such a difficult situation- don't want to offend families but the longer one waits to assess their home if they do have bed bugs the longer one waits the worse a potential infestation can get. This can be complicated by bed bug bites showing up way before a family could potentially find the bed bug. Reviewing articles- it appears that it can take up to four months before a bed bug population grows large enough to be found easily by lay person.
(Anderson) See #2 above. Bites could be from a number of other sources. If the child is coming into school repeatedly with bug bites, the parents could be approached and asked about the source of the bites on the student as a matter of concern. Bed bugs should not even be suggested in the conversation unless the parent offers it. You do not know definitively that they are bed bug bites unless you are presented with an actual specimen.
- As school nurse I am trying to educate my staff that doctors often misdiagnose bed bug bites as "contact dermatitis, mosquito bites etc.", that different people respond differently to bed bug bites, and bites can seem to heal then flare when bitten in another spot on the body due to personal allergy response. Do you have any easy to read literature with pictures to share with staff to help them understand the difficulty diagnosing current bed bug infestation in a person’s home by bites alone?
(Anderson) Bed bugs cannot be diagnosed by the bites alone. People react to bites, and the bed bug anticoagulants injected during the feeding process, differently. Some people have no reaction, while others can react moderately, while even others have severe reactions. The only way to properly diagnose a bed bug infestation is with the ID of an actual bed bug captured at the scene or other supporting evidence of bed bugs.
- Does a student need to be excluded from school for bed bug bites?
(Anderson) No. Secondly, are you certain they are bed bug bites? Even if they are confirmed bed bug bites, the answer is still no. That said, steps should be taken to discuss the situation with the parents and provide them with some proactive procedures that parents can undertake to reduce the spread of bed bugs. See #6 below.
- If a bed bug is found on a student's clothing and there is a CONFIRMED INFESTATION in the home, should we discreetly inspect the student daily upon arrival at school until the problem is cleared up?
(Anderson) Yes. For children who repeatedly come to school with bed bugs, institute clothing and school item sanitation. These procedures should continue until the student has been bug free for 5 consecutive school days. 1.) In an infested home, parents should store their child’s freshly laundered clothing in sealed plastic bags until they are put on in the morning. This prevents bed bugs from hiding in the clothing and being carried to school. 2.) Backpacks, lunchboxes and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and stored in sealed plastic containers at home to prevent bed bugs from getting into them. The inspection should take place in the health office. 3.) At school the student could be provided with plastic bags or bins in which to store their belongings in order to prevent any bed bugs from spreading to other students’ belongings. 4.) The student may be asked to bring freshly laundered clothing to school in order to facilitate a change of clothes while at school. When the student changes clothes in the health office they should stand on a white sheet. The sheet can then be wrapped up with the clothes and all of it taken to the dryer. The clothes the student was wearing should be dried for at least 30 minutes at more than 120 degrees to kill any bed bugs. This laundry task should be completed by the health aide and custodian. Precautions should be taken in handling the clothing. Have the student place the clothing in a bag to take to the laundry. The unusual instance where a child repeatedly reports to school showing evidence of bed bugs despite previous notification, education and counseling with parents, further investigation is needed. Repeated bed bug presence may be due to the following:  (Taken from the MCCSC IPM Plan for Bed Bugs)
- If a landlord is not willing to take care of a suspected infestation, where should the renter go? County Health Department?
(Anderson) City or town health department should be advised of the situation. The next step would be the county Health Department and an inquiry call to Social Services.
- If bed bugs are found in the cafeteria from a student's back pack or clothing, what action should the manager or staff workers proceed with to ensure the cafeteria is safe to serve food?
(Morlino) What I would suggest you do at that point is if you captured the insect, and it is a confirmed bed bug, it’s most likely the only insect. If you know the student it came from get the school nurse involved and talk to that student and possibly inspect their belongings and see if there’s something going on. Possibly question them to see if anything is going on at home, so you need to work with the student in particular. If it’s just a random insect that you caught that’s identified as a bed bug, you call in your IPM professional and do a thorough inspection of the facility and take a look at what going on. There are special type of situations as far as any food service area as to how you might treat it if there’s a big bug problem. Most likely it’s a random isolated insect.
(Anderson) First be sure that it is a bed bug. Bed bugs are probably the least of your pest worries in a cafeteria environment. In additions to Mr. Morlino’s recommendations, I would add general sanitation, cleaning –to-the corner at the end of the day is the recommendation. A bed bug will not last long in an active school cafeteria environment and by historical accounts would not be poisonous if accidently ingested.
Let me explain. The following may not sound appetizing, but I would like to give a historical perspective. In Pliny the Elder’s works, (65-79AD), Pliney’s 5th Book focused upon the preparation, properties and testing of drugs and became the most central pharmacological work in Europe and the Middle East for the next 16 centuries. It was believed that the bed bug had medicinal properties, and it was used ground together with other substances against a variety of diseases (Pliny: Natural History XXIX.61, 62, 63). Both Pliny and Quintus Serenus recommended giving seven bedbugs in a cup of water to people suffering from lethargy. Pliny’s remedy for malarial fevers was made of bed bugs mixed with meat and beans. According to Pliny the Elder, “Bed bugs could heal snakebites, ear infections and other ailments”.
- If you have a recurrent bed bug sightings on the same student should you start sending them home?
(Anderson) No. However, Please refer to the answer in #6 above then read the following caveat. In rare or extreme cases, a school may have to confront a situation where a parent or caregiver is incapable or unwilling to remedy a bed bug infestation in the home. These cases are difficult because a school must weigh several important factors. Providing a healthy, pest-free environment for students to learn is the responsibility of the school. 1.) Providing a healthy, pest-free environment for the staff is also a responsibility of the school administrators. 2.) Providing a safe and healthy living environment is a responsibility of the parent and NOT the school. 3.) A repeated bed bug introduction by a student constitutes a risk to other students and staff. While bed bugs do not transmit disease, they are a health issue because they are blood-feeding, human parasites. Once established in a home they can cause physical and psychological symptoms, and present a significant economic investment to eradicate. These facts are also true at the school level. Repeated inspections and potential treatment by pest management professionals, anxiety, frustration and lost instructional time on the part of staff and administrative efforts constitute a serious cost both economically and in educational efficiency. Bed bug infestations are not only an individual family and school concern, but are of concern for the entire community. Individuals and institutions have their respective responsibilities, but it is incumbent on the community itself to attempt to help its members, particularly those less fortunate, to address an infestation. While the policy recommendations outlined above do not generally support exclusion of a student for bed bugs, in some cases this option may be needed to be considered for resolution of the situation. Exclusion alone will not solve a bed bug infestation, but may serve to prompt stronger or more effective measures at home. Building principals and directors should use the IPM Committee as a sounding board to assist in a decision making process in particularly difficult cases. (Taken from the MCCSC Integrated Pest Management Plan for Bed Bugs)
- We have had students with bed bug crawling off them at school. We were having the student change clothes when he got to school and change back before leaving because his parents could not afford to have the house treated properly. Another student's parents found out and were furious that the child with bed bugs was even allowed to be at school because they were afraid they would infest others. Is there a better way to deal with this issue, because we have indeed seen an increase since the first student?
(Anderson) Please read #6 and #9 above)
- Why is the school nurse responsible for coordinating /investing IPM if there is no medical issue with the student? Infection, itching swelling etc. And how does the nurse determine which student the bed bug came from when it is found on one student?
(Anderson) If a bed bug is found on a child in school, it does not mean the child brought the bed bug into the school. If the bug was found on a child or a child’s belongings, the child should be discreetly removed from the classroom so that the school nurse or a qualified individual can examine the child’s clothing and other belongings. Any bugs found should be removed and collected for identification. It is important to confirm that the bugs found really are bed bugs before proceeding. If a confirmed bed bug was found on a child then the school nurse should inform the child’s parents. Educational materials should accompany the letter. The notification, at this point, is just to let the parent know that the bug was found on the child. The parent may wish to take precautionary measures with the child’s clothing and belongings, so where ever the bug came from, the parent can take measures so the residence will not become infested.
Bed bug Monitoring Questions
- Canine inspections can be done on school buses, classrooms, lockers, collect points, library, and offices. Why are not the schools being pro-active and having an ongoing canine inspection?
(Anderson) Canine inspections can be very worthwhile, but they are also quite expensive. Normal sanitation protocols are quite effective for the occasional bed bug dropping in. If the bed bug problem in a particular school is on-going, then perhaps more regular canine inspections may be warranted.
- Who can we call for the dog?
(Anderson) You will need to check with you state extension office or pest management professional association in your area. Not all areas of the country may have easy access to trained bed bug detecting dogs. When dealing with bed bug monitoring and control, always ask for multiple references and check them.
- Conflicting data exists on the use and value of bed bug detection dogs. The advertised rates of success may not be what is actually achieved. The presenter didn't make that clear.
(Anderson) Most pest control companies that use canines are reputable, as their references will certify. But like any other service – buyer beware. Here again, always check references.
- We have been using glue traps to help us identify bed bug traffic. Do you agree with this idea?
(Anderson) Such traps are used often in monitoring the numbers of bed bugs in an infestation in multi-family housing, especially to determine if control measures are effective. A school should not have the level of bed bug activity that would be considered an infestation. (With the exception of a boarding school.) At the point when a bed bug, or any other pest infestation is found within a school, Pest Management Professionals should be called in and eradicate the infestation, following IPM protocols.
- When or how do you determine that treatment method have failed in schools?
(Anderson) When reports of more pests are on-going, especially in the same, or surrounding rooms.
Control / Treatment Questions
- Out of the non-chemical methods of heat, steam, or cold, what seems to work the best on bed bugs?
(Morlino) My experience has shown that heat in the way of steam is one of the most effective ways within the classroom environment treating upholstered furniture. and I didn’t mention earlier that one of the worst things you can have in your school environment is upholstered furniture, especially people that bring in second-hand furniture into school and think they’re saving money. Steam is very effective and its very low cost for a small steam jenny That quickly reaches the temperatures. You need to be trained on how to use it and what to do with it. I would defer to your IPM professional as to the best way to treat a student classroom environment.
(Kells) I would agree on that. I think from a classroom standpoint steam treatment applications are going to be the best. And it’s all going to depend on what sort of situation you’re going to be dealing with. If you’re dealing with clothes, heat from a dryer is easily done versus trying to steam the clothes. It all depends on what you’re dealing with. If you’re dealing with books, freezing the books would be easier. You’re going to damage them by steaming. You’ll certainly damage them by throwing them in a clothes dryer, so using a freezing technique for books might be worthwhile. They all have their little individual advantages and disadvantages. From the school property standpoint if you’re dealing with them on the carpet or upholstered furniture, steam works well.
- When using steam as a control, do you recommend high power/pressure or low?
(Anderson) Low pressure. Steam must be applied very slowly and on low pressure. If the pressure is too high, the bed bugs will be blown and will quickly scurry away. This is also why hair dryers are ineffective for bed bug control.
- What are your feelings of using isopropyl alcohol for bed bugs? I have had some official want to try this. I do not agree to the risk/rewards.
(Kells) Isopropyl alcohol is not labeled for control of bed bugs. There is one product called Steri-Fab that has isopropyl alcohol in it and you can use it according to the label, but it’s a short-acting contact insecticide. I don’t think its necessary for use in schools. Out of all the incidence we’ve had with emergencies, fires, and everything else isopropyl alcohol rises to the top. We’ve had rental cars exploding and apartments being caught on fire because of the use of volatile chemicals like that, so no isopropyl alcohol. You’re probably just as affective using a damp sponge, cloth, and soapy water to catch and dispose of the insect. Also, the amount of alcohol that’s required to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs is more than what a lot of people think. It’s not just a small spritz of that material. I strongly, strongly recommend that people do not use isopropyl alcohol.
- Does a mixture of alcohol and water in a spray bottle do anything?
(Anderson) It may kill a few bed bugs, (less than half) but so will a hammer, your foot or a piece of sticky tape. Alcohol will also increase the risk of open fire, if exposed to even a spark of flame. I have seen far too many apartment homes and other forms of housing go up in flames, due to the often ineffective, use of alcohol on bed bugs.
Can bedbugs be contained in Ziploc type bag long term?
(Anderson) Yes, if zipped all of the way, they cannot get out, and will eventually die in the bag.
- Are the most effective pesticides those required for use only by a licensed pest management professional?
(Anderson) The pesticides with the greatest risk for misapplication and potential exposure are restricted-use pesticides for professional applicators only. As for bed bugs, the most effective control measures, known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that include a variety of practices such as proper sanitation, maintenance, monitoring, heat, cold or steam treatments and pesticides with residual properties to be used only when absolutely necessary.
- Would you recommend using a product called Diatomaceous Earth Food to treat bed bugs? What is current EPA recommendations for using IPM applied diatomaceous earth or cimexa in school building yearly as a bed bug preventative.
(Anderson) If bed bugs are not a problem in your school, then there is no need to apply anything. Just keep up with good sanitation, maintenance and monitoring / surveillance. An application of any pesticide as a preventative in a school setting is not recommended and is not part of an IPM plan. While effective under certain circumstances, such as in wall voids and other confined locations, DE is siliceous, and if inhaled can cause lung damage. It is defiantly not a candidate for open application in a school. Perhaps in wall voids in dormitories.
- Do you recommend diatomaceous earth in the cracks?
(Anderson) Pesticide grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) can be used in wall voids or cracks. Remember these things: 1.) DE is a slow acting. The bug must walk over the DE. Microscopically, DE will act like razor blades on the exoskeleton of a bed bug and will abrade and eventually cut the. It may take 4 or 5 days for the bug to die. It make take weeks for large numbers of bed bugs to be affected. It could be used as one step in a multi-faceted IPM approach to bed bug control. 2.) Please use caution when using DE. DE is from the ground-up bodies of siliceous diatoms. It is not advisable to place it in places where it may be blown or inhaled. It would be similar to breathing in volcanic ash. 3.) DE comes in many grades including pool grade, food grade and pesticide grade. Be sure to use the pesticide grade for controlling your bed bugs. Read and follow all directions and precautions.
- Is there a safe preventative spray for backpacks and coats?
(Anderson) Dr. Changlu Wang from Rutgers U. has have considerable success with applying DEET on his outer clothes whenever he would enter invested residential units. This was applied on an experimental basis. That said, I will caution, unless a product is specifically labeled for use to repel bed bugs, I would not recommend it for application on any clothing or backpacks in constant use, especially by children.
- There is a Product that is supposed to be EPA certified it's called "Bed Bug Bully" uses natural herbs and is not considered a pesticide. Anyone heard of or used it?
(Anderson) If it is not a pesticide, then EPA has not done efficacy or safety analysis on it and it is not registered or ‘certified’.
Bed Bug Resources
- EPA’s Bed Bug Site
- Bed Bug Prevention, Detection and Control
- Bed bug tips card (sheet to print)
- Bed Bug Card for Travel (sheet of cards to print)
- Let's Beat the Bed Bug! - Response Kit for Schools Exit
- New! Cost-Effective and Money-Wasting Bed Bug Control Methods; Rutgers U.
- Bed Bug IPM Technical Resources for Educators: Information on the Monitoring, Control and Treatment of Bed Bugs
- Bed Bug Identification, Control and Prevention: Recommendations for Schools (PDF) (2 pp, 494 K, About PDF)
- Understanding and Controlling Bed Bugs in a Public School (PDF) (24 pp, 552 K, About PDF)
- MCCSC Integrated Pest Management Plan for Bed Bugs (4 pp, 87 K, About PDF)
- Prevention and control of bed bugs in residences
Upcoming School IPM Webinars
We welcome your participation in our upcoming webinars and ask you to encourage your peers to attend. These presentations are geared specifically to school and school district facility managers, buildings and grounds managers and staff, childcare facility managers, and school IPM practitioners. School nurses, school administrators, health officials, and pest management professionals are welcome to attend.