Tag Archives: Bed bugs

Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

Bed bugs in schools are an issue that is not going to disappear. We have many resources available to help people deal with the issue, but, as is often the case, these resources are not looked for until there is a crisis.

Finding a bed bug in any situation can be distressing, but should not be a cause for panic.

This became clear, once again, as a distraught school official called to ensure that the pesticide application they were planning was legal. When asked if the pesticide applicator had found an infestation, the answer was “We know there isn’t one”. The strategy had been to spot treat when a bed bus is found. But the problem has escalated. Parents are pulling their kids from school. The union is involved. Finger pointing is rampant. The pesticide application was planned to show that SOMETHING is being done.

But we know that it isn’t going to help. Eliminate every bed bug in a building and the very next day a student or staff member can bring in another hitchhiker from an infested home.

So what is the solution?

Bed bugs are, simply, a community problem. It is nearly impossible to determine who is at fault and laying blame is pointless. The old saying states that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to deal with a bed bug problem.

First, know that it is nearly impossible to prevent bed bugs from entering any public facility. They will hitchhike on personal items from infested homes. These introductions are common in schools, office buildings, movie theaters, retail stores, libraries, taxis, buses, trains, diners,…

Bed bug infestations are rare in schools, but introductions from infested homes, usually on personal items that travel from home to school and back again, are quite common.

Second, infestations do not happen unless bed bugs have the opportunity to feed. They hate disturbance, prefer darkness when feeding, and need a body to be still, usually for two hours or more – not conditions typically found in schools.

Third, especially in apartment units, a family might be doing their best to control bedbugs, but a neighbor’s untreated apartment can lead to constant reinfestations. And there are multiple reasons for residents to not report bed bug infestations within their apartments, including:

  • Bed bugs might not have been noticed. Not everybody reacts to bites.
  • Residents are ashamed or embarrassed. Despite the fact that anyone can get bed bugs, there is the false stigma that bed bugs are associated with poverty and unsanitary conditions.
  • There is a risk of being charged for treatment or being evicted, even when the landlord is responsible.
  • Treatment is expensive and the resident might not have the resources to hire a pest management professional.

A national organization called eXtension has developed an IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs that addresses the responsibilities of the school community and parents (and, in extreme cases, local government). Both lists include education. The NYS IPM Program can help with educational resources (below) and workshop opportunities.

The Action Plan goes on to discuss procedures that should be followed if a suspected bed bug is found and what to do if children repeatedly come in with bed bugs. It even provides recommendations for further intervention when children continue to come in with bed bugs despite interventions. A small sample of listed procedures include:

  • If a confirmed bed bug was found on a child then the school nurse should inform the child’s parents. [A letter and] inspection report should be sent home with the student. (See Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet for a good sample letter). Educational materials should accompany the letter.
  • In most instances students should not be excluded from school due to bed bugs. Schools should not be closed due to the discovery of bed bugs unless there is a widespread infestation [which is rare].
  • 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.
  • 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. [Backpacks can also be treated in a hot dryer.]
  • At school a “hot box” might be used to heat treat belongings possibly infested. A hot box is an insulated container with a heating element that raises the temperature above 115 degrees, killing bedbugs. They can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Dryers that contains shelves will also serve the same purpose.

Action plans can then be formatted as a flowchart, making decision making simple to understand and follow. The Michigan Bed Bug Working Group put together the Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet with a sample flowchart.

This flowchart is part of Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know. The fact sheet also includes a sample parent letter.

We recommend that every school develop a bed bug policy based on the recommendations within the IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs and use NYS IPM Program resources to help educate the school community and beyond regarding bed bugs and how to deal with them.


NYS IPM Bed Bug Resources

And be sure to check out a potential grant opportunity to help the school community purchase the airtight containers and heating units needed to help prevent bed bug transportation. The Walmart Foundation Community Grant Program offers grants ranging from a minimum of $250 to the maximum grant of $5,000. We do not know if they have ever funded this type of project, but let us know if you are successful!

The Role of School Nurses in Integrated Pest Management for Public Health

By Meredith Swett Walker. Originally published on Entomology Today, by the Entomological Society of America, November 2017. Republished with permission.

tick cubes and spoon

Tick specimens embedded in Lucite can help school nurses distinguish disease carrying ticks like Ixodes scapularis from other species. Nurses are also provided with a tick removal tool with a web address directing them to online IPM resources for schools. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.)

School nurses do more than just apply bandages to scraped knees and administer asthma inhalers. They are also health educators, they help control communicable diseases, and they even do some pest management.

Meredith Swett Walker

In the past, the dreaded head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) was likely the only pest a school nurse needed to worry about. But, with the rise of arthropod-borne diseases like Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika, nurses increasingly find themselves thinking about tick and mosquito control as well. Bed bugs, meanwhile, are also cause for concern, and as head lice evolve resistance to traditional insecticidal treatments, even these pests require more sophisticated control methods. But school nurses typically haven’t received training in pest ecology or integrated pest management (IPM.)

At Entomology 2017 in Denver, Kathy Murray, Ph.D., of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry presented her work with the Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group to engage school nurses in IPM for public health pests in schools. This project aims to give school nurses the tools, resources, and training that they need to promote and support IPM policies in schools. The work was endorsed by the National School Nurse Association and supported by the Northeastern IPM Center.

In the last 15 years, many states have started requiring schools to practice IPM. This may seem odd, but a school campus is essentially a large public property, and any property, be it a building or open space, has pests. Usually, IPM efforts in schools focus on facility managers or custodians. But school nurses deal directly with the effects of these pests on students and can be an important addition to the IPM team.

In many public schools, resources are spread thin. Facility managers may not always have the budget for the labor or materials necessary for effective IPM. But when facility managers and nurses come together to ask administrators or school boards for more resources for IPM, their requests have more heft, says Murray.

New England Nurse Conf 2017 table

The Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group has presented its project to engage nurses in IPM at nursing conferences. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.)

In the Northeast, ticks are a major concern, particularly Ixodes scapularis (also known as the blacklegged tick or the deer tick), which transmits Lyme disease. Students may come in with ticks they picked up at home or can even pick up ticks on the school grounds. The project supplies school nurses with a tick removal tool, as well as actual ticks embedded in Lucite to aid in distinguishing disease-carrying species from non-vectors. When nurses learn more about tick ecology, they can help identify potential tick habitat on campus and work with facility managers to get it removed.

Mosquito bites themselves are not a major concern for school nurses, but arboviruses like Zika or West Nile are. When nurses know more about the behavior and ecology of mosquitoes, they can help identify mosquito breeding sites on campus, such as small pockets of standing water, and work with facility managers to address them. Where arboviruses are a serious concern, nurses may advocate for outdoor sporting events to be scheduled to avoid peak mosquito activity periods like dusk.

Murray found one health-pest relationship that many nurses were unaware of: the connection between cockroaches, mice, and asthma. The fecal material and urine of these pests are potent asthma triggers. Unfortunately, schools are a prime habitat for mice and roaches. There is food present in the cafeteria and often the classroom. In addition, school buildings are typically unoccupied at night, when mice and roaches are most active. Some research has even shown higher levels of pest-related allergens in school buildings than in the average student’s home. If nurses are concerned about asthma attacks at school, managing pests may help.

In her presentation at the Entomological Society of America’s 2017 annual meeting, Murray made the case that school nurses are often at the front lines of pest-related public health challenges. They can also be essential bridges to the wider community. When confronted with a pest problem, “nurses would like to have some solid, research-based, concise information—in multiple languages” that they can share with students’ families. The IPM project is working to provide that. While some school nurses may have never envisioned IPM as part of their job description, Murray says she has found the school nurses she works with to be interested in IPM and “very passionate about protecting student’s health.”

Read More

 

Meredith Swett Walker is a former avian endocrinologist who now studies the development and behavior of two juvenile humans in the high desert of western Colorado. When she is not handling her research subjects, she writes about science and nature. You can read her work on her blogs Pica Hudsonia and The Citizen Biologist or follow her on Twitter at @mswettwalker.

Online School IPM Resources to assist IPM Professionals with their Programs

Thank you to Janet Hurley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, for her dedicated effort to progress school IPM and for allowing us to use her post.

In 2014, a number of collaborating institutions led by Dawn Gouge, University of Arizona and Janet Hurley , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension received two separate grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide online resources on integrated pest management (IPM) for school personnel. The Stop School Pests team used their grant to focus on education and training for personnel, while Hurley and collaborating scientists created a one-stop online “big box store” of IPM resources, including documents, training, pest ID pamphlets, state legislation and more.

stop-school-pests-urlThe training website, Stop School Pests, resulted from a collaboration of 42 people from federal and state agencies, universities, school districts, tribes, advocacy organizations and industry. Together they proposed to build a resource that would increase IPM adoption in K-12 schools and reduce the risks from pests and repeated pesticide use.

stop-school-pests-modulesStop School Pests provides modifiable PowerPoint presentations for in-class teaching and self-guided online courses. Lessons are specific to different roles within a school, so that facility staff will have access to materials specific to them.

While some groups, such as facility managers and maintenance personnel, were eager to delve into the materials, others such as nurses and teachers initially did not think the subject matter pertained to them. However, several who participated in some of the in-class lessons said that they did not realize how much they did not know about pest management and were glad that they took the lessons.

“I have been a school nurse for 25 years, and I cannot believe I learned so much helpful information in just one hour,” said Mary Griffin, a nurse in Arizona, after attending a training session piloting the Stop School Pests School Nurse Module.

A softball coach said that she did not realize that spraying pesticides without a license was illegal in her state until she went through the training.

For personnel who need specific information or don’t know where to turn once a pest problem starts, the iSchoolPestManager website provides over 1,000 resources, including the educational materials from the Stop School Pests project.

The iSchoolPestManager site was built as a searchable online mine of school IPM resources from every state. Staff from Texas A&M AgriLife spent several months collecting materials; then volunteers from throughout the country, even one from Israel, painstakingly combed through them to eradicate duplicates, outdated materials or references to materials that no longer existed. The initial 1,315 resources were pared down to 1,045 entries. Staff at the Pesticide Information Center in Oregon helped design and build the website. The website currently has 1,065 documents to assist everyone with adopting, maintaining, and sustaining their IPM program.stop-school-pests-website

Search for all sorts of documents by going to the show me everything tab.

The site is formatted for a standalone computer, with a separate link that will bring up special formatting for a smart phone or tablet. Resources are divided into four areas: geographically specific, professional trainings and other materials, insect-specific information, and groups of documents such as fact sheets, regulations, checklists and more.

Rather than duplicate information already provided at other websites, Hurley decided to link to them. For instance, self-paced instruction under “Training Modules” links to pages hosted by eXtension. Some of the PowerPoint presentations are located at Bugwood. Some of the educational links go to videos at university websites.

While the amount of information in iSchoolPestManager might seem overwhelming at first, users looking for specific information will be able to use the headings and sections to locate what they need more easily.

Additional information

Bed Bugs in Schools. You Found One.

What if you or a staff member sees a bed bug?

… on a student or the student’s belongings:

Don’t panic, and don’t assume the insect’s source, but discreetly remove the student from the classroom. If you’re not the person responsible for pest management, contact them immediately. Someone must attempt to collect the insect for proper ID! Examine the student’s belongings, in keeping with your district’s personal property policy. If the insect is a bed bug, contact the student’s parents by phone, explaining the facts without targeting fault. Offer to send educational bed bug information home with the student at the end of the day. There should be no reason to send the student home early. If your district is completely unprepared for this type of event, it’s time to determine a policy. We also suggest a prompt and complete inspection of the classroom by a knowledgeable district employee or a contracted pest control officer.

If a home infestation is suspected or confirmed, promote response and offer guidance. Request the student bring a change of clothes in to school. Clothing and belongings may be kept in plastic bags, and clothing may be heat treated (tumble-dried for ~20 minutes). If there is no evidence of bed bugs at the home of the student, investigate other possible sources. If bed bug infestation is occurring at the student’s home, and continues with little progress, enlist the help of local agencies.

If you found a bed bug on school furniture or elsewhere inside the building:

Isolate the area. Contact the school/district person responsible for pest management. Promptly attempt to collect for proper ID, and if confirmed, schedule a prompt and thorough inspection. Consider sending a letter home to parents of students using that classroom. If a true infestation has begun inside school, parents must be informed. Follow the school’s protocol for treatment. A pest management professional will suggest both a thorough cleaning and a possible pesticide treatment depending on the determined pest pressure.

Samples of information to parents: What NOT to do if you have bedbugs, lo que No debe hacer quando tiene chinches and here

Be ready to: pack up items in the room and place in tight-lidded boxes or large plastic bags. Keep these items isolated so you are not transferring bed bugs to another area.  Vacuum along all surfaces, taking particular care along crevices. Wash hard-surfaces in the area with warm, soapy water. Use a tumble dryer (some may have racks, which can be handy) to heat-treat any appropriate material for ~20 minutes on high heat.

If the bed bug was an isolated incident, maintain vigilance by scheduling inspections.

Sample letter for parents – from University of Minnesota

Laundering to kill bed bugs -from University of Minnesota

Bed bugs: What schools need to know – from the Ohio Bed Bug Task Force

Bed Bugs in Schools – Prevention

bed_bug_adult

Exclusion and sanitation are key factors in structural IPM.  Because schools and child care facilities rarely provide the favored overnight buffet found in homes and hotels, bed bugs found in schools and daycare facilities (as well as libraries, restaurants, theaters and public transportation) generally don’t create the same long term infestations. They will, however, be doing their best to find a blood meal, feed, and be on their way in less than fifteen minutes.

No one can prevent a bedbug incident, but the risk of infestation can be reduced if you and your staff learn to be proactive.

Exclusion?

Bed bugs travel via clothing, coats, backpacks, purses, book bags, instrument or document cases, etc. Obviously, checking everyone as they come in the door, and their belongings is unrealistic. Bed bugs don’t hop or fly, so they rely on speedy locomotion and you.

BedBugSuitcase_lg from bedbugcentral

bed bugs on a suitcase. Image from Bedbugcentral http://www.bedbugcentral.com/

 

Take note: Exclusion still plays a part in bed bug control, and we’ll discuss this in a future post. And never adopt or accept second-hand furniture without a thorough examination.

Sanitation?

Cleanliness has nothing to do with the presence of bedbugs, but clutter is any pest’s best friend. Clutter provides habitat and makes inspection (scouting) difficult. Large, long term infestations may occur where cleaning and sanitation has lapsed.

Where do they hide?

Insects the size of poppy seeds or apple seeds can find shelter anywhere. They prefer to be close to their food source (why not?) so look in the folds, seams and hidey places in and around upholstered fabric. Use a putty knife, playing card or plastic card along the edges of carpeting, along wall molding and trims, and behind wall art. Visually inspect behind electrical wall plates. (At home, electronics such as bedside clock radios can harbor bed bugs).  Any resting place for humans can become bed bug habitat.

If your school has had bed bug incidents, you should be inspecting on a regular basis.

Examine pillows, cushions, seams and all parts of upholstered furniture, including under and inside the frames. Do this in teacher lounges, libraries, auditoriums and any classroom or office with upholstered furniture or a resting area.

Know what you are looking for. Study the photo resources we’ve provided and other online information

Look for active bedbugs, cast skins and tell-tale reddish-brown-to-black spots of excrement.

Reduce clutter. This may be the most difficult step in a classroom. Keeping classroom paraphernalia in totes and keeping them mobile makes inspection and cleaning easier, and reduces bed bug travel opportunities. This is also an excellent way to reduce the chance of ants, cockroaches or mice.

Train your staff on how to reduce the chance of infestation.  Also, discuss bedbug prevention openly with staff and students to reduce shaming and ridicule. Do not panic if a bed bug is found. If it’s an isolated case, there is no way to know where that insect came from.

Have a policy in place and know how to capture, keep, and identify a bed bug.

More on Inspection:

Take along a flashlight, putty knife, playing card or plastic card, a screwdriver, wide clear tape, magnifying glass, small zippered bags or tightly-closing plastic containers, facial tissue, tweezers. Have large garbage bags on hand, and remember to fill out an inspection form.

NYSIPM – steps in inspection and collection

BedBug TV: How to inspect a couch

A detailed Bed bug resource from Toronto aimed at public housing