Monthly Archives: January 2015

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


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.


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


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.


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

Got Geese?

Goose Problems on School Grounds & Athletic Fields Seminar

Although beautiful in flight and valued as a symbol of the wild, Canada Geese frequenting school grounds, including athletic fields, are a growing concern.Canada geese family

Come and learn about goose biology and behavior, the legal framework for dealing with goose problems, alleviation techniques available to schools, and the long-term management of geese and goose problems.

Rochester’s Edison Tech High School will be hosting the event which will occur the morning of Friday, February 20 (snow date of March 30 or 31). Details will follow.

For more information, contact:
Lynn Braband
NYS Community IPM Program of Cornell University
2449 St. Paul Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14617
(585) 753-2562


Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. The letter of the law states:

A vacuum transforms into an effective IPM tool when used to collect yellow jackets entering and exiting subterranean nests.

A vacuum transforms into an effective IPM tool when used to collect yellow jackets entering and exiting a subterranean nests.

No school or day care shall apply pesticide to any playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields, except that an emergency application of a pesticide may be made as determined by the county health department or for a county not having a health department such authority as the county legislature shall designate, the commissioner of health or his or her designee, the commissioner of environmental conservation or his or her designee, or, in the case of a public school, the school board.

Questions about the law still abound. Here are the most common questions we receive:

What areas are affected?

Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.

The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:

  • Areas around buildings
  • Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers

Pesticides used inside of schools or day care centers, or to protect a structure, are not banned.

Family day care centers are exempted.

What if a fence line is managed by the surrounding landowner (such as childcare center on a college campus)?

The inside of this child care center’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The inside of this child care center ’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The law applies to the interior fence line that encloses the play area (the side that children may contact).  The law would not apply to the exterior fence line.

If a park hosts school athletic events, such as games and practices, must it be managed under the law?


What pesticides are banned and are there any exceptions?

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators. All EPA registered pesticides are banned by this law for use on grounds at schools and day care centers, with the following exceptions:

  1. Antimicrobials such as bleach
  2. Aerosol sprays (18 ounce or less) to protect from imminent danger from stinging or biting insects
  3. Insect and rodent baits in non-volatile containers
  4. Products containing boric acid or disodium octaborate tetrahydrate
  5. Horticultural oils and soaps
  6. EPA exempt pesticides, known as minimum risk pesticides and 25(b) products, are not registered by EPA because they find them to pose little or no risk. Cornell has a list of allowable herbicides for schools and day care centers available for your reference.

Note that all of the above exceptions (except bleach) must be applied by a NYS licensed pesticide applicator. Any off label use of a product – such as the use of bleach, vinegar, road salt, or home remedies to control a pest – is illegal under state law.

Is there a provision within the law to add additional materials to the exempt list?

No. A change would require either the EPA to add to its 25B list or the NYS legislature to pass new legislation.

How do we apply for an emergency exemption?

Under the law, a public school can seek permission for an emergency application from their school board. Non-public schools and day care centers ask the Department of Health in the case of emergencies that threaten public health, such as ticks, or the Department of Environmental Conservation for those significantly affecting the environment, such as an invasive species.

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

While the law does not indicate what might be construed as an “emergency”, the Guidance document states pest issues are NOT emergencies if they are:

  • manageable with allowed products and practices
  • a routine or repetitive pest problem
  • purely an aesthetic issue

We are used to dealing with the DEC on pesticide issues. Besides deciding on emergency exemptions for environmental issues on private school and day care grounds, what is their role in the law?

The Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the State Department of Education, State Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services has written guidance for alternative management of turf, but has no role in enforcement.

Where can I find help in managing my grounds without the use of pesticides?

The new Cornell Sports Field Management website provides sports turf managers with the latest best management practices and resources they need to maintain safe and functional school and community sports fields.

The new Cornell Sports Field Management website provides sports turf managers with the latest best management practices and resources they need to maintain safe and functional school and community sports fields.

Cornell University is committed to helping you provide safe, functional school and childcare landscapes. The Cornell Turfgrass Program connects you to numerous resources, most notably the Safe Sports Fields Management website and the Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset ibook. The NYS IPM Program has a dedicated page for schools and childcare centers, including a new blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. We also encourage you to take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the year.

Bed Bugs in Schools – Is it or isn’t it?

The person responsible for pest management decisions in your school or child care facility should be able to identify bed bugs, as well as understand their life cycle, habitat needs and how to prevent or remove them. But all of us should do ourselves a favor and learn about this pest.  With ever-increasing incidences of bed bug infestations, knowledge is your number one key to prevention.

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on blood. They prefer to be active at night and to hide out in dark, narrow crevices or creases during the day, but daylight (or keeping the lights on) won’t prevent bites if they’re hungry.

5380033 eggs on box spring hatched

Hatched bed bug eggs on fabric of a box spring. Photo by Gary Alpert, Harvard University,

Bed bugs have an incomplete metamorphosis (three stages – egg, nymph, adult) meaning they don’t pupate. Once an egg hatches, that tiny bed bug is going to need to eat. Before that first meal, it is semi-transparent, pale and the size of a poppy seed.

5486223 adults, nymphs and frass

Bed bug adults, nymphs, frass on fabric. Photo by Barbara Bloetscher, The Ohio State University,

Nymphs look like miniature adults and as they grow, they molt (shed their “skin”- their exoskeleton) until they are full-sized adults. For this reason, cast skins are a sign of infestation.

5443240 mixed stages on nickel

Mixed life stages on nickel. Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,

Both males and females eat blood meals. In all cases, their excrement gives them away–look for dark droppings or stains. Unfed bed bugs are flat; rounded ones have had their meal.


Adult, nymphs and blood spot (feces). Photo by Gary Alpert, Harvard University,

Bed bug identification is key. Don’t confuse them with other small insects found in the home:

Carpet beetle

1233092 carpet beetle and larvae

Adult and larva- black carpet beetle. Photo by Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, –

Spider beetle

5460354 American spider beetle

American Spider Beetle Photo by Pest and Diseases Image Library,

5370352 spider beetle

Whitemarked spider beetle. Photo by Joseph Berger,

cockroach nymph

5380141 American cockroach nymph

American cockroach nymph. Photo by Gary Alpert, Harvard University,

1435179 Oriental cockroach nymph

Oriental cockroach nymph. Photo by Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,

We hope this has improved your bed bug ID skills. For more on bed bugs in schools, as well as homes, visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management program website!