Bed Bugs in Schools Webinar Report
Bed Bugs in Schools, the fourth in a series of School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) webinars hosted by EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM, was presented on December 16, 2014. Included here is the contact information for the presenters, responses to questions and comments, and related resources.
- Dini Miller (email@example.com), Ph.D., Virginia Tech University
- Marcia Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ph.D., US EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM
- Susan Jennings (email@example.com), US EPA Public Health Liaison
Responses to Questions / Comments
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. Unless otherwise indicated, the responses represent the combined input of all of the presenters.
What is the distinction between an introduction and an infestation?
An infestation has the ability to self-perpetuate. If not treated the bed bugs will continue to survive and reproduce. An introduction does not 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 brought in. Is she an introduction only? If she lays an egg today, does that count as multiple life stages present? The presence of two adults and no eggs may be an introduction only but someone had better know the sex of those two adults. This issue is becoming a citation question among elderly daycare center inspectors in Virginia.
Why do bedbugs only feed on sleeping or persons at rest?
Bed bugs do not only feed on sleeping or persons resting. If hungry enough they will feed opportunistically on any blood source. However, most of the time they will feed on a stationary blood meal, for they prefer to feed undisturbed. In addition, it is the concentration of carbon dioxide that accumulates in an area, a consequence of a human in a stationary position that attracts the thirsty bed bugs in search of a meal.
I noticed that the clear plastic container had a foamed lined lid. Where are these available? Is this ideal? The bugs could hide in the foam.
The presenter's photos of the clear plastic storage containers for storing school supplies have clear plastic lids only. They were purchased at a big box retailer. It would not be good for them to have foam linings.
On the passive monitoring slide, what was that under the table leg where the bugs were?
The white plastic bed bug monitor located under the table leg is a Climb-Up Interceptor. Interceptors are an effective tool for determining the presence of bed bugs and the need for action. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. The commercial variety are available on-line and in many retail bedding and hardware stores - ask for “bed bug interceptors”. A package of four will average $20. Placing a bed frame leg in the center of the interceptor makes a moat around the leg. Talcum powder applied to the walls of the moats causes bed bugs to slip and fall in, where they remain trapped. These cost effective devices can help confirm complete elimination, show where bed bugs are coming from (an inner and outer moat shows whether the bed bugs came from the floor or the bed), detect an infestation early, and give residents some reassurance that bed bugs won’t get on their bed. While moat-style interceptors are not a complete control tool, they do trap bed bugs in addition to monitoring. They may also help reduce populations and prevent bites. We consider interceptors worthwhile.
How long will a bedbug live without a host?
At 73° F a first instar bed bugs will live 20 days on average, with a lot of variability depending on conditions. Fifth instars and adult bed bugs live an average of 70 days at 73° F. If the temperature is dropped to or slightly below 50° F, the adults can live for about 450 days. Adult bed bugs will live without feeding much longer than the nymphs. The length of time is dependent on temperature. Cold temperatures will cause the bed bugs to go into a state of torpor, or deep sleep, that prolongs their life span.
I noticed in some photos an obvious lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) used by the presenter and her students in known bed bug infested buildings. Can you address the lack of PPE and why it was not used?
(Dr. Miller): My students and I are always guests in someone's home. We always represent Virginia Tech, so we advertise that fact on our shirts. Also, because we are guests, we do not want to send the message that says, "It is okay for you to live here, but I don't want to touch anything." So, we never wear Tyvec suits. With regard to PPE, my experience has been that bed bugs cling like crazy to those paper Tyvec suits and shoe covers. So we do not wear them ever. However, all of our lab members have dedicated bed bug clothing. We wear the same designated clothing every time we do bed bug work. We also inspect each other thoroughly every time we leave an apartment. In the 10 years I have worked on bed bugs, I have never taken one home. Note that we do a lot of moving, climbing on, and climbing under furniture to perform thorough inspections. How else do you do it?
How do bed bugs get transferred into the schools?
Bed bugs can be carried into school on clothing, and possessions of both students and staff. Aside from hitchhiking from infested homes, bed bugs can be passed along or picked up on mass transit, in theatres, restaurants, or in many other places where people congregate. They can also be brought in on used upholstered furniture, wheelchairs and many other items transported from infested locations.
The single most important thing for anyone to do to avoid bed bugs in 2015 is to look for bed bugs on the personal items you are carrying with you. Most people just unlock their front door and dump all the many items that they just brought in from the car onto the couch. Bed bugs and eggs are visible. So quickly scan the outside of your purse, computer bag, coat, and clothing for live bed bugs before walking into your home. If you can remember to look at your things for 30 seconds (an eternity, right?) before you bring them in the house, you reduce your potential of bringing them into your home by 95%. Most people never look. You know it’s true..
What tips or strategies do you have for staff working in the schools where bed bugs are frequently brought into the school ....especially to not bring them to their home?
First not to panic. Second, in school: avoid introduction of upholstered furniture or sitting on it, place purse, outer clothing or other materials from home in a clear plastic container with a lid. Third, have a spare set of outer clothing to change into. Place the clothes you wore in school into a plastic bag and seal or box with a lid, do not forget shoes. All clothing can be later heat treated in a dryer set on high for 30 minutes. Perhaps put interceptors on the bed to catch any infestation early. Seems like a good opportunity to stress prevention.
How can we help economically challenged students and families solve bed bug problems at home?
Answer: All families will benefit from education about bed bugs, and open communications with schools and health providers. Many of the bed bug IPM methods provided on the EPA website, including sanitation and maintenance, will go a long way to reducing the number of bed bugs in any situation. For issues related to paying for bed bug control, check with your local social service agencies. Financial assistance is not generally available. For example, EPA does not provide resources to pay for bed bug control.
What are your suggestions for dealing with kids who regularly bring bed bugs to school over and over? Since schools are supposed to avoid sending students home, what is the recommendation for a student that comes to school daily with many bed bugs on his/her clothes? After you have identified a student who is bringing in bugs do you recommend spraying the students’ coats or clothing?
No spraying of students is warranted. Ensure that parents have received educational materials on bed bugs and are working with the school on reducing the likelihood of bed bug transmission. Have the parents send in a change of clothing into school in a clear plastic bag. In addition, have a few extra sets on generic clothing or scrubs kept in the nurse’s office. Luckily, heat is an excellent bed bug killer, and nothing is more effective for killing all bed bug life stages than a hot clothes dryer. The student’s clothes can be tumbled in the dryer on high for 30 minutes (you will need temporary clothing available for the child during this process). A dryer with a removable shelf is excellent for heating items that cannot be tumbled, like backpacks and school supplies. It is highly recommended that schools purchase a clothes dryer (nothing more than a dryer you would purchase for your home use) for the purpose of dealing with bed bugs. If bed bugs become a common occurrence in your school, the dryer will pay for itself by keeping up school attendance and reducing the need for pesticide applications. In addition, have clear plastic boxes for all materials that traveled from home into school.
What is the protocol if a bed bug is found on a child (introduction)?
First, make sure that the bug is truly a bed bug. There are many bugs that look very similar so it is easy to mistake them for bed bugs. If it is a bed bug, in most cases it will have been brought to school on a child’s clothing, backpack or other belongings. Luckily, these types of introductions rarely require that the school be treated, or that parents (other than the child’s) be notified. There is also no need to send the child home. In this particular case discretion is critical for preventing bed bug hysteria. The nurse or some other predetermined person should be called to escort the child and their belongings to the dryer area. Have the child change into temporary clothing and place all of their clothes (including shoes) in the dryer set on high for 30 minutes. After the clothes are heat treated, have the child change back into their clothes and return to class. Heat the rest of their belongings and the temporary clothes on high for 30 minutes. Use the dryer shelf if their belongings cannot be tumbled.
If a bed bug infestation is confirmed in a classroom, is it important to treat all adjoining rooms? Including any rooms above or below?
First determine if the issue is an introduction or infestation. Remember that infestations are rare in schools. If an infestation is confirmed, it is important to inspect adjoining rooms, but it may not be necessary to treat them. Inspect to determine if any bed bugs are in the adjoining rooms first. Treatment may not be necessary if no breeding bed bugs are found.
How frequently should schools be inspected with dogs?
Properly trained bed bug dogs are very effective and efficient in finding bed bugs in large buildings such as schools. However they can be very expensive, and estimates in some areas are about $1,300 per team per day. Use with visual inspection and only when bed bugs have been detected and confirmed. Then, use them as a follow up as needed, typically two months later. Inspections using bed bug detection canines are especially useful in two scenarios. The first is when a person reports bed bugs but the pest management professional (PMP) can’t find any with visual inspection. The second is when a PMP wants to confirm that the area is bed bug-free, for example post treatment. Canine inspections for bed bugs can identify emerging infestations in their earliest stages, helping facility / property managers gain school -wide control before an infestation spreads to other parts of the building or homes, saving considerable time and money. If a dog alerts to a bed bug, you should always visually find the live bug before any treatment is begun.
If a family with a home infestation moves to a new location without bringing their belongings, at what point can a school stop checking the clothing for hitchhiking bed bugs? Our situation has been one month bed bug free to school free.
That is a good plan.
What percentage of schools in the US or California experienced bed bug issues in 2013 or 2014?
You will need to contact the California Department of Public Health to determine if such records are available. Many districts keep, but will not release, such records.
Does freezing kill bed bugs?
Solid carbon dioxide (also known as dry ice) should not be used to control bed bugs. This use is not registered by EPA, therefore, it has not been evaluated for safety or efficacy. Dry ice can cause serious burns and, when used in enclosed spaces, has caused asphyxia.
(Dr. Miller) Freezing with home freezers is too unpredictable to be recommended as a method of bed bug control. When one of my students graduated, he put some of his experimental bed bugs (about 200 in a glass vial) into the food freezer to kill them. I cleaned out that freezer about two years later. I emptied the vial in to a bowl, then washed the vial. After washing, I went to throw away the contents of the bowl. I was very surprised to see at least four bed bugs crawling around. More would have no doubt recovered over time. So I immediately put the whole bowl into the drying oven. Based on this experience, I never recommend using a home freezer for killing bed bugs. You will not be satisfied with the results.
Would it be better to use a more 'toxic' chemical with fewer applications than to use a pesticide that is least toxic (to humans) with many applications to eliminate bed bugs?
The question would be “toxic to who?” The pesticides that we have available (labeled and legal to use) for killing bed bugs have extremely low toxicity to humans. Unfortunately, because bed bugs are so highly resistant to all our products (due reduced cuticular penetration type resistance among other types), these products are not particularly toxic to the bed bugs either. Keep in mind that we can kill almost any bed bug if we spray them directly. However, almost all research indicates that if the bed bugs survive the first two applications of any product, future applications of the same product will have little or no effect without a direct hit. Applying a pesticide more than two times hoping for better results is a waste of time and money.
Where can I find a list of what equipment works and what does not work? (Does this mean heat equipment? How do we know?)
(Dr. Miller) All bed bug treatment equipment is relatively new, therefore no such list exists. Realize that most of these new treatment devices including some whole home heating systems, freezing devices, ozone devices have all come on to the market within the last 4 to 5 years. Also, new products are being developed all the time. Consider that most of these products are not mass manufactured. My experience has been that the whole equipment company may only consist of one or two people who have put these products together. For example, you may attempt to order a heat chamber for treating belongings, or power duster to apply diatomaceous earth, only to have the company write you back that the item you want is on backorder. Yet, the real story is that only two of these items currently exist, and the company owners are going to have to make another piece of equipment. I'm speaking from experience.
The above being said, consider that structural heating systems that do have a track record (for mold remediation typically) are relatively expensive ($50,000 - $200,000). Those heat systems that cost significantly less, at the time of this writing, have some serious drawback (not enough fire power to kill bed bugs). Even if you are interested purchasing a tried and true system like the TempAir system or Thermapure Heat, I strongly suggest that you test them yourself before purchase. Consider who will be using the system. How much the heater weigh? How hard it is to drag these heaters upstairs and down hallways? Did you realize that the cable connecting your heating system to the generator weighs a hundred pounds? Finally, and most importantly, does your heat system provide wireless remote sensors that you can put in the deep, dark, hard to heat places where bed bugs like to hide? Does your system provide you with a print out of when all sensors made it up to the bed bug lethal temperature?
Plenty of people have purchased bed bug thermal remediation systems $14,000 and found that they were completely ineffective because they did not have the firepower needed to get the bed bug hiding places up to temperature. If you're considering purchasing any bed bug remediation equipment, do not take the manufacturer's word for what it can do. Use it yourself. We are still in the early years of bed bug remediation. If all of these products worked as well as we are told by the manufacturers, bed bugs would be a thing of the past and we would not need any more bed bug webinars.
How do I find a bed bug expert in my state or town?
(Dr. Miller) Finding a true (and local) local bed bug expert can be very difficult. Once again bed bugs are a relatively new pest, and most people do not want to have anything to do with bed bugs, let alone become an expert on them. That being said, we have plenty of people that claim to have bed bug expertise but they have no real first-hand knowledge. Nor do they rear the thousands of bed bug needed to study their biology, behavior or response to control methods. My first question to anyone who claims expertise in bed bug biology, behavior or control methods is, “do you maintain bed bug colonies”? If they don’t maintain bed bugs themselves, consider that all of their knowledge is based on what they have heard from others (second hand), and possibly some of their own limited field observations.
In the United States, we a liberal guess would be that we have about 8 individuals rearing large numbers of bed bugs in the lab and focusing their energy on understanding bed bug biology, behavior and field response to control methods. We probably have another 20 that work on bed bugs regularly in the field, not as pest control operators but people that are actually taking data to evaluate which products and equipment actually work in the field. Keeping this in mind, you will notice that there are many people selling bed bug products that claim expertise. Take a look at some of the product videos on-line. Notice that the manufacturers talk a lot about the product itself, but not so much about bed bugs.
Certainly all of the national experts are available to you by email. The National Press Management Association has a list of researchers with bug expertise. In addition there are several consultants available for hire. But keep in mind that local expertise is rare. I work for the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service and I can say that out of the close to 200 extension agents in the state, there may be two capable of giving accurate bed bug advice. So, in short, bed bug experts are hard to find. Unfortunately, the ones that can be easy to find may not have the expertise that you need.
Hiring a quality pest management professional (PMP) to treat bed bugs requires some research and investigation. EPA details tips for finding a bed bug professional. PMPs that provide an IPM service establish procedures for preventing pest entry and limiting the food, water, and shelter available to pests. When all members of the IPM Team (management, faculty, staff, and contractors) know their role in pest management before a problem arises, a reported infestation (regardless of pest type) can be dealt with quickly.
Could I get the names of the liquid insecticides that pest management companies should be using?
(Dr. Miller) Make sure you ask any pest control company you intend to hire to provide you with a list of products that they intend to use. All of them should be labeled for use in your facilities. With regard to what they “should be using,” the answer is not that simple. Almost all liquid insecticide products are effective if they are applied directly on the bug. But if you hit each bug directly with a hammer, that would work too. Our problem is that because bed bugs are highly resistant to most liquid insecticides, very few of them have any activity after they are dry. So the liquid insecticides can kill bed bugs, they just cannot prevent them. However, at this time, we have some liquid products that are known to be the most novel and effective (again, they do not produce much residual activity). These products go by the trade names such as Temprid, Transport, Bedlam Plus, Tandem and Phantom Aerosol. If your pest control company intends to use liquid products but does not mention any of these products, it would indicate to me that they are not keeping up with their bed bug education. Once again, the products on this list do not have any miraculous properties, they are simply the newest and best we have. Note that we are already seeing some resistance to these products so do not expect splendid results from any liquid formulation applied as the sole method of bed bug control.
If pesticides are used as to control bed bugs in a school, then they should be used as part of a comprehensive IPM plan.. If needed, pesticides should be used carefully according to the label directions. Look for EPA-registered pesticides. Bed bugs must be listed on the label. Go to EPA's webpages on pesticides to control bed bugs and the Bed Bug Product Search Tool for more information.
Where can I find a list of safe or low toxicity pesticides? Will you discuss the use of FIFRA 25b's in schools for bed bug control?
Once again no such list exists. I assume from the question that you are interested in effective products only. It makes no sense to apply any product that is not effective. As mentioned earlier, most all products will kill bed bugs if sprayed directly on the bed bug body, including the 25b products (essential oils, orange oil, enzymes etc). However, just like the EPA labelled insecticides, none of these products (regardless of the claims) have been shown to kill bed bugs once the material is dry. If they did, we would all be using them and bed bugs would no longer be our problem. My experience with low toxicity products (Steri-Fab, etc.) and 25b products has been somewhat disappointing. They do not kill resistant bed bug eggs, and have no residual activity. Please, think hard before you spend your limited funds on these products.
Since 25(b) products are not registered, EPA cannot determine whether they will be efficacious against bed bugs. Before selecting a pesticide, look for EPA-registered pesticides and make sure that bed bugs are listed on the label. See EPA's website for a description of the types of products that may be used for bed bug control.
What about using foggers to kill Bed bugs?
Insect foggers have been shown to be 100 percent ineffective for bed bug control. Please see the abstract below from Ohio State University below. Note that the current EPA website lists all bed bug products that are labelled and legal to use. This list is no indicator of product efficacy. Foggers are completely ineffective. See this 2012 publication on the ineffectiveness of foggers for bed bug control:
Jones, SC and JL Bryant. 2012. Ineffectiveness of Over-the-Counter Total-Release Foggers against the Bed Bug (Heteroptera: Cimicidae). J. Econ. Entomol. 105(3): 957 Ð963 (2012); DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC12037
Dr. Miller noted that active CO2 monitors were no better than the passive interceptors such as black out. I read a paper by Dr. Changlu Wang that indicated that Nightwatch was more effective in short term. Please comment.
Please note that the Night Watch CO2 Bed Bug monitor is no longer available for purchase nor is the FMC Verify CO2 monitor. Why? Because these produce did not sell well. While individual CO2 monitors may catch bed bugs, the question is can they catch bed bugs better, faster, or more often that passive monitors? To date, we have no data to indicate that CO2 monitors are significantly better at catching bed bugs in the field than passive monitors. In other words, no CO2 monitor (produced thus far) has been so superior in its performance to be worth the added expense or maintenance in the field. Unpublished research from Dr. Wang Exit at Rutgers University showed their homemade portable monitor was more effective than those commercially available.
I attend a medical conference in San Antonio, and we were told that 90% isopropyl alcohol will kill bed bugs. Please comment if this actually works.
Yes, isopropyl alcohol will kill bed bugs, but so will hairspray, cooking oil, dishwashing liquid and many other non-insecticide products. As mentioned previously we can kill bed bugs with almost anything (including a hammer) if we get a direct hit. But remember, killing bugs is not the problem (stomp on them with your shoe), it is stopping an infestation. Isopropyl has no residual activity and will not kill or terminate an infestation.
Isopropyl alcohol should only be used when formulated into a pesticide product and in strict accordance with the label. Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable and has been reported to have caused numerous house fires when used inappropriately. In addition, these products tend to only kill on contact. Because of the products’ high volatility, little to no residual remains after application to kill the bugs. See EPA's website for a complete list of pesticides registered for bed bug control.
Why did you not mention the recently introduced product Nuvan Direct Spray? This is a not residual product that kills 100% of those bed bugs and other insects that it is applied to.
As stated in the question above, there is nothing novel in killing bed bugs with a direct spray application. As the name suggests, Nuvan Direct Spray functions like any other contact killer. You can expect similar results from direct applications of isopropyl alcohol, 25b insecticides, pyrethroid insecticides, or dish washing liquid.
- EPA’s Bed Bug Site
- EPA's Print a Bed Bug CardUnlink
- State of Virginia's Bed Bug Action Plans for Schools(5 pp, 120 K, About PDF)
- Purdue University's Bed Bug IPM Technical Resources for Educators: Exit Information on the Monitoring, Control and Treatment of Bed Bugs
- EPA's Bed Bug Prevention, Detection and Control
- State of Vermont's Bed Bug Identification, Control and Prevention: Recommendations for School(2 pp, 493 K, About PDF)
- State of California's Bed Bugs are Back!(2 pp, 263 K, About PDF)
- North Carolina State University's Sample Protocol for Bed Bugs Found in NC Schools(14 pp, 232 K, About PDF) Exit
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.