Bed Bugs in Schools? What Next?

Maybe you liked school, but if you didn’t, brace yourself for an idea so horrible that it is difficult to contemplate.  Bed bugs in schools. Whether you loved your years spent in school or absolutely hated them, one fact is certain: bed bugs would not have improved your experience.  Unfortunately, students across the country are being forced to add a “B” to the “Three R’s,” and that “B” stands for bed bugs!

Ask any mom, and she will quickly tell you that if there is cold or flu making its way through a school system, the odds are pretty good that her child will also get a case of the sniffles.  However, bugs are a different issue, regardless of whether we’re discussing head lice or bed bugs.  A child’s immune system, of course, plays a role in whether or not he or she will develop a cold or flu.  But one’s immunity has nothing to do with whether or not bed bugs jump on board in a backpack and take a little ride to your home, where they’ll take up residence.

How bad is the problem of bed bugs in schools?  Many states now have bed bug programs and educational programs with tips for what to do about these icky bugs.  Two factors have greatly contributed to this slowly building potential nightmare.  The first is that bed bugs, like most bugs, breed very quickly. The second factor is that they can be carried on a long list of different items.  The Maine School System points out the bed bugs can be carried to school by students or even staff (yes, let’s blame it on the teachers!) via “backpacks, clothing, furniture, or other belongings.”  So, in other words, stopping bed bugs seems impossible.

How are schools handling the very real and serious issue of bed bugs?  That is also a potential problem where the cure would be worse than the disease.  The number one solution that many schools gravitate towards is pesticides, which, of course, could be quite problematic for many reasons.

The Maine School System cites Penn State University on their site and strongly encourages schools to resist the use of pesticides when attempting to treat a bed bug issue.  They explain, “Resist demands that may arise to ‘spray the school’ for bed bugs, even if this comes from a contracted pest control service. Because of the isolated nature of any potential infestation, bed bugs’ habits, their resistance to most commonly used pesticides and the constant likelihood of re-infestation by new hitchhikers, pesticides do not solve the problem.”  It would seem that pesticides are not the answer when addressing the issue of bed bugs in schools.  So what is the answer?

Bed bugs in schools are a trickier issue than dealing with bed bugs in a more isolated environment, such as a home.  More people, goods and materials are moving in and out of a school than a home.  All of this adds up to one big headache for parents, students and most definitely schools.

School systems facing a bed bug problem in school have a significant problem on their hands, but the good news is that the bugs are not indestructible.  The University of Minnesota is tackling the problem of bed bugs in schools and have outlined a few excellent recommendations.  At the top of the list is finding the problem and then proceeding to isolate it. The offending item or items should be placed in a ziplock bag, student items should be inspected and the infected areas cleaned.  Vacuuming can also be helpful, but it is necessary to follow specific methods in order for cleaning to be effective.  Surprisingly, special bed bug detecting dogs can be brought in to literally “sniff out” the problem.