integrated pest management practices

Calming Fears and Dealing with Bed Bugs in Schools

By Marcia Anderson

NEWbedbugs.on.thumbParents, teachers and students all worry when bed bugs are spotted at school because they are a public health concern. No bigger than an apple seed, bed bugs can hide in tiny cracks or hitch a ride to school or home on coats, shoes, clothing, backpacks and books. A bed bug sighting might mean that there is an infestation. Here are a couple of examples of bed bug fears teachers and students have shared with me:

  • “Today every student on my school team received a letter about inspectors spotting a bed bug in one of our classrooms.…I don’t want to go to school until they’re gone. What can I do to keep these bugs out of my house?!”
  • “…I found a bed bug crawling on the desk….What can I do? I already talked to my teacher, friends, and principal but (they) have not done anything? What should I do?”

The common question in these examples and so many others I see or read, is: What should schools do to prevent and stop the spread of bed bugs?

Safety First. Administrators need to be cautious about applying pesticides in school. Although it’s important to keep schools free of pests, it’s also essential to use pesticides only when necessary. This thoughtful approach is important because students may be affected by pesticide use.

Action. Schools need to investigate the extent of the pest problem, then use an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The IPM approach involves inspecting for pests, properly identifying what’s found, and taking steps like cleaning and daily maintenance to prevent pests. Vacuuming, steam cleaning, using hot dryers and plastic storage bins, and removing clutter are the preferred actions when a single bed bug is sighted in a school.

Prevention. There are things students and teachers can do to prevent the spread of bed bugs, like placing coats and book bags into individual plastic containers or bags, and carrying as few items as possible from home to school. Never throw coats or book bags on the floor, bed or couch. Book bags and jackets should be treated in a hot dryer for 30 minutes once a week, especially if the school has had a recent bed bug sighting.

placement of bookbag into plastic bin

Just because bed bugs are tiny doesn’t mean they don’t pose a big threat. Following these tips, educating staff and parents, and having an effective pest management plan can go a long way in reducing the number and intensity of bed bug infestations. It also will certainly reduce the spread of bed bug hysteria when an incident does occur.

About the author: Marcia Anderson is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA New York Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keeping the Pests Away

By Lina Younes

Recently, I had a bug infestation in my pantry. Nope. I’m not talking about cockroaches, ants or rodents. There were numerous small beetle-like bugs attacking foods like flour, dry cereals, and even boxed pasta products. I was surprised to see the infestation given the fact that I’ve always strived to abide by integrated pest management practices. Didn’t think that this was happening in our household!

My husband’s immediate reaction was to suggest spraying the whole place with an insecticide to get rid of the bugs. I agreed with discarding those products that seemed to be the focus of the infestation, but I didn’t want to spray an area that would be in contact with food. I didn’t want insecticide residues to remain in my pantry long after the spraying. So, I set aside several hours to empty the pantry completely. I discarded all the cereals and flour-based products in bags and boxes. I cleaned the pantry thoroughly to get rid of any crumbs or remnants of those unwanted critters. Then, I put the canned goods back in. Any new cereals or flour-based products were placed in plastic or glass containers before going in the pantry.

There are simple tips on how to prevent pests from entering your home. If you’ve eliminated the sources of food, water and shelter first, it is unlikely that they will seek refuge in your home. However, if you’ve taken preventive measures and they still become a nuisance, then you should apply low-risk pesticides properly. Remember that using more is not always better, Cleanliness and these simple steps can go a long way to keep your home pest-free.

So, it’s been several weeks since the get-rid-of-the-bugs operation. I’m happy to report that the pantry is still bug-free. Have you had a similar bug attack? How have you eliminated these unwanted creatures? Send us your comments. We would like to know.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as the Multilingual Communications Liaison. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.