Back In School: Bed Bugs Spreading in School Settings
It’s not a secret anymore that Canada’s bed bug problem is getting worse by the day: pest control experts say the frequency of reports involving bed bugs has increased by 20 percent from last year, continuing the “compounding growth” trend of the last six years. But while Canadians may have become familiarized with the thought that bed bugs have spread far and wide through the country, invading both urban settings and rural areas, most expect them to remain inside homes where they can feed on sleeping hosts. Few know what to make of their child coming home from school all bitten and swollen – and are baffled by the thought that bed bugs have now taken hold of school settings.
In general, schools and institutional child care environments are not favorable to bed bug infestations – the critters do indeed prefer to dwell in the proximity of sleeping – and unsuspected – hosts. On the other hand, bed bugs can be carried into schools by just about anyone without them knowing it, in their backpacks, briefcases, on clothing, or on any other belongings. Once a bed bug hitches a ride into school, the classroom quickly becomes a potential hub for bed bug infestation, and unless managed efficiently, a minor concern involving just a few bugs can turn into a full-blown infestation that’s extremely difficult and expensive to treat.
Signs of Infestation in Your School
To find out if your school is facing a bed bug infestation, look for the following signs:
- Bite marks and welts on students or staff
- Live or dead bugs
- Cast skins
- Spots of dried blood and droppings on mattresses, box springs, and casings (if the facility is furnished with beds)
- A musty odor (usually a sign that the infestation is severe)
If bed bugs are detected on the clothes or belongings of a student, it may be an indication that the student has a bed bug infestation at home. At the same time, it’s important to note that bed bugs may travel from one person to another with relative ease, so it’s highly probable that the bed bug found on one person was, in fact, brought inside by someone else. Whatever the case may be, try not to panic, send suspected children home, or close the facility – any of these measures will only cause more panic and hysteria among parents and students and not address the actual problem.
Preventing an Infestation in Your School
Since bed bugs usually enter school settings on the belongings of students and staff, the first step to preventing an infestation is to limit the amount of blankets, stuffed animals, costumes, and other personal items brought by students from their homes. (If that’s not possible, try at least to keep track of all personal items brought into the school.) Try, whenever possible, to keep each student’s clothes and belongings separate from the rest – put them in individual lockers or cubby holes and store extra clothing in sealed bags and containers. If you suspect bugs on any of the clothes, put them into the dryer for half an hour at high temperature.
Besides reacting promptly to an existing infestation, it’s also crucial to train all staff to recognize bed bugs and the early signs of an infestation, so that the problem can be stopped before spreading fear and panic among students. Give parents/guardians reading materials, post bed bug fact sheets on bulletin boards, and explain to both students and their parents what your school is doing to prevent and manage this ever growing problem.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.