Tag Archives: Bed bugs

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 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.


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

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org –

Spider beetle

5460354 American spider beetle

American Spider Beetle Photo by Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org

5370352 spider beetle

Whitemarked spider beetle. Photo by Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

cockroach nymph

5380141 American cockroach nymph

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

1435179 Oriental cockroach nymph

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

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!




Bed Bugs in Schools – Don’t Panic



image: Gary Alpert, Harvard University, Bugwood.org

The EPA recently hosted a well-attended webinar on Bed Bugs in Schools. For many school administrators, it has been a non-issue. After all, we aren’t supposed to sleep in school. Childcare facilities are at a higher risk, and we’ll speak directly to that in another post.

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are drawn to the presence of blood through our carbon-dioxide breaths and warm bodies, and will happily move through a building to find us. That includes finding their way from room to room, or apartment to apartment, through walls. Luckily for us, students and staff are rarely ‘in the right place at the right time’ for bed bugs. Luckily for them, they like to travel in our belongings.


A student or staff member who has bed bugs at home can inadvertently bring them to school. If you think this is a problem tied to family income or a home’s cleanliness, think again. Given the mobile nature of our society, bed bugs are happy to find a blood meal in any home.

The webinar’s presenters,

  • Dini Miller, Virginia Tech’s Urban Pest Management Laboratory
  • Susan Jennings, EPA Public Health Liaison
  • Marcia Anderson, EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM

emphasized a few key points. First and foremost was don’t panic!

If you find a bed bug in school, please understand there is a big difference between an incident (finding a bed bug) and an infestation (finding multiple bed bugs…likely including females). All bed bugs eat blood meals, but  an egg-producing female begins an infestation when she finds food and shelter (resting humans and their blood, and a nice dark crevice or fold in upholstery). An infestation tends to be hidden within a few feet of the food source, such as headboards, box springs, wall sockets, and inside upholstered furniture.

Want to know more? Read Bed bugs are Back!

Just as in any aspect of integrated pest management, your first challenge is to identify the pest, and that means capturing it. Bed bugs are often misidentified and the last thing you want to do is create a problem where there is no problem. There are different ways to collect a specimen. Grab it in a tissue and place the whole thing inside a lidded jar, an empty prescription container,  zipper-slide storage bag, or disposable coffee cup with  a lid. (for examples, see one of our illustrated guides.) You can use tweezers or sticky tape as well. Adults are about the size of an apple seed. Warning. Bed bugs move fast.  If you haven’t already done so, immediately contact the person in your school or district who is in charge of pest management. Place the sealed bag or container in a freezer (keep it there at least 30 minutes).

You do have someone who makes pest management decisions, right?

What about your pest management protocol or policy? Does it have a decision-tree for dealing with bed bugs?

If you don’t have a written policy on bed bugs or other pest control decisions, you are setting yourself up for problems. Let’s remedy that. Stay tuned. the NY State Integrated Pest Management program has been at this for many years, and we’ve created or gathered the resources you need. Throughout January, we’ll focus on increasing your knowledge of this pest.

Here’s another resource: Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely, from the NY City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene.